Given the mind-bogglingly high number of animals that are born into this world every day, it should come as no surprise that some of those will exhibit significant defects or deformities that set them apart from their kind. That said, however, there’s no telling what types of defects an animal might display until someone finally lays eyes on something that seems out of place.
Image Credit: NT Parks and Wildlife
One such discovery involves a seemingly-inconspicuous 18-inch (40-centimeter) carpet python (Morelia spilota). Australian rangers purportedly happened upon the serpent in March as it was crossing a road in Humpty Doo, but upon closer inspection, they realized that it had more than the ordinary number of eyes – three to be exact.
Deformed animals, much like this three-eyed snake, are particularly notorious for living shorter lives than their non-deformed counterparts. With that in mind, the rangers couldn’t just leave the animal where they found it; instead, they collected the snake and brought it into captivity where it could live a better, longer life. The rangers then nicknamed the snake ‘Monty Python.’
While in captivity, curious researchers performed a plethora of tests on Monty Python to determine whether the third eyeball was capable of sight or not. X-ray tests found that all three of Monty’s eyeballs were fully-functional, which meant that the snake was gifted with better vision than most. Those tests also determined that Monty Python was approximately three months old when brought into captivity.
Although most would think that better eyesight would improve the snake’s survival chances in the wild, this wasn’t the case. In fact, the deformity made it more challenging for Monty to eat, and the rangers quickly noticed this as they attempted to feed the snake in captivity. Sadly, the attempts to preserve Monty Python didn’t go so well. He died in captivity just last week at an estimated age of four months.
“It’s remarkable it was able to survive so long in the wild with its deformity, and he was struggling to feed before he died last week,” explained Ray Chatto, one of the rangers who was responsible for caring for Monty Python. “It was generally agreed that the eye likely developed very early during the embryonic stage of development.”
As you might come to expect, Monty’s remains are being preserved for scientific research rather than disposed of. It’s hoped that researchers will learn more about the circumstances that made this deformity possible, a step that could help us better understand the species’ early development.
Monty will certainly be missed, but given the frequency of these types of deformities in reptiles, we’d bet that it won’t be long before something of similar nature pops up somewhere in the world.