School of Life Sciences | Ask A Biologist

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Tradeoffs

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  • Coil: the act of wrapping one object around another.
  • Tradeoff: choices between two or more things.

tradeoffPython parental care is an example of what we call a tradeoff. Tradeoffs are like choices between two or more things. For example, if you have $1, you can buy popcorn or ice cream, but not both. So, you are forced to make a choice between eating something salty and eating something sweet.

A common type of tradeoff for parents is the decision to take care of themselves or to take care of their young. Python moms are so devoted to caring for their eggs that when they are growing inside her and when she broods her eggs, she won’t eat a single meal. Can you imagine not eating a meal for over three months?

python broodingAnother type of tradeoff that python moms make is the choice between different needs of their young. Like you and other animals, pythons have many needs during development, such as staying warm and hydrated.

When a python mom loosens her coils to warm her eggs in the morning, she risks having them dry out. So she has to decide between keeping her eggs at the right temperature (called thermoregulation) or making sure they don’t lose too much water. Being a python mom is actually pretty tricky because she has to change her coiling behavior to balance what her growing young need.

Python eggs

Tight coils keep eggs from drying out.

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Python eggs

Tight coils keep eggs from drying out.

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.