Science & Environment

Giant python gets a health check

A team at Chester Zoo gave an enormous reticulated python its annual check-up on Tuesday - including using ultrasound to scan its heart.

Reticulated pythons are the longest snake species in the world.

So it took a team of eight handlers to hold the snake in order that it could be examined.

The huge reptile, named JF, is thought to be one of the biggest snakes in Europe - at 7m (23 feet) long, and weighing approximately 60kgs.

As well as ensuring the snake is healthy, the check-up was part of a cardiological research study.

This is a joint research programme between the zoo and Cardiff Metropolitan University; the hope is that looking at JF will provide insight into problems with the human heart.

Reticulated python at Chester Zoo
It takes eight keepers to hold the snake
Reticulated python at Chester Zoo
JF's head is covered to keep her calm
Reticulated python being examined by vets and researchers at Chester Zoo
Researchers from Cardiff Metropolitan University are studying the python's heart

Steve Unwin from Chester Zoo said that the primary reason to "have a good look at JF" was "to ensure she's in tip top condition".

"But we're also interested in anything that can help with the understanding of human heart health.

"It is already proven that a snake's heart can expand and reduce in size in relation to eating a big meal and digesting it.

"The only time the heart thickens or thins in humans is when there are real cardio problems.

"So if we can build up our knowledge of how snake hearts function, we could potentially learn a lot from this comparative data."

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