Scientists Worried Everglades Pythons Could Morph into Hybrid Man-Eating Monsters

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Last week, I wrote about a coalition of scientists trying to stop the next dangerous exotic invader from taking over the Everglades.

Dennis Giardina, a botanist who co-chairs the group, took me on a hunt for nile monitor lizards, wily seven-foot-long monsters that he rates as the biggest emerging threat in Miami-Dade. When he instead ended up catching two different varieties of tegu lizards -- a similar giant reptile from South America -- Giardina warned that if the two varieties of tegus interbred, the result could be scary.

"There's a phenomenon called 'hyrbrid vigor,' where the product of two species interbreeding gets the strongest characteristics of both," he warned ominously. "We could end up with a super-lizard on our hands."

Yikes. Yet as unsettling as a herd of intelligent, razor-clawed dinosaurs roaming Miami's back yard might seem, another group of scientists upped the ante on disaster scenarios this morning.

As we all know, thanks to a summer of Burmese python hysteria, thousands of the 20-foot-long snakes slither around the Glades. Fortunately for us, Burmese pythons are fairly benign and usually content themselves with trying to eat alligators -- and comically exploding -- rather than messing with people.

Well, according to the Christian Science Monitor, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission scientists have recently snagged five African rock pythons -- a much more aggressive snake known to eat human beings whole in the African bush.

"[They're] mean right out of the egg, and they don't ever tame down," one scientist told the Monitor.

So if the Burmese pythons and the African rock pythons start hooking up

out in the swamps, we could soon have a gang of "hybrid vigor,"

man-eating, gigantic snakes hanging out in the Everglades.

The good news: The FWCC has dispatched its famous snake bounty hunters to the area where the African snakes were found and hopes to take out the population before it spreads.

The better news: Someday this is all going to make for an awesome, low-budget Discovery Channel made-for-TV movie starring Ashton Kutcher.

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