Friday, May 17, 2013
by Christopher Cheng; illus by Mark Jackson
32 pages; ages 5 - 8
"It's morning in the bush. Python stirs..." She is hungry, but first she slithers to a sunny rock to bask and warm up. That's because pythons, like all reptiles, are ectothermic.
'Ectothermic' is more than just another cool word to add to your vocabulary; it refers to animals that acquire heat from their environment - like a sun-warmed rock.
This is a great story of the daily life of a python - but not for the squeamish or faint of heart. Because after shedding her old itchy skin (molting), this python is off on a hunt. She strikes out for a bird - and we see her rows of needle-like teeth that, writes Christopher Cheng, are "perfect for grabbing, hooking and holding". The bird escapes; a rat is not so lucky. We see python wrap around and suffocate its prey. We watch the rat disappear, tail-last.
Python lays eggs and coils around them to keep them warm. But once they hatch, she doesn't stick around caring for her young. That's OK because the hatchlings are soon ready to start their own lives of watching, waiting, and catching their own meals.
Pythons live in Africa, Asia and Australia. While they aren't native to North America, there are pythons living in the southern regions of the US - particularly in Florida where Burmese pythons are eating local wildlife. People organize "python patrols" and hunt the invaders. Where did these exotic pythons come from? People releasing their pets.
Check out other science resources at STEM Friday.