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Snake Lungworm Alliance & Monitoring

Snake Lungworm Alliance & Monitoring

Where did they come from?

The invasive snake lungworm is thought to have been introduced to the United States by the establishment of Burmese Pythons
(Python bivittatus) in Florida. This parasite spillover from nonnative snakes has spread through numerous native species, like the ones you see on our website, and has been found in 25 counties so far. 


Individual impacts

Raillietiella orientalis is a long-lived parasitic crustacean that lives in the lungs of snakes. Infections in native snakes have been associated with inflammation, lesions of the lungs, pneumonia, sepsis, and mortality. We currently lack a comprehensive understanding of the sublethal effects of infection and their implications for survivorship.

Geographic spread

This parasite emerges as a substantial conservation issue for native snake populations, with evidence indicating its presence in at least eighteen native snake species across 25 counties in Florida. Raillietiella orientalis exploits abundant and widely distributed intermediate hosts, including cockroaches, small lizards, and small anurans, which are frequently consumed by various snake species and are commonly transported by humans. Additionally, R. orientalis is present in the pet trade and has been linked to numerous fatalities among captive specimens. Considering its prevalence in the pet trade and utilization of widespread hosts, R. orientalis is expected to further expand its invasive range beyond Florida.

Population & Community declines

The initial discoveries of Raillietiella orientalis infections coincide with declines in snake populations in certain regions of south and central Florida. However, it is crucial to gather additional evidence linking R. orientalis prevalence to these declines and mortality events to fully understand the threat posed by its increased prevalence and geographic spread.

Thu, 28 Mar 2024 13:47:14 EDT