Lazy snakes! Pythons can be couch potatoes, too

hons were then fed various 500 and 250 kJ meals (protein, carbohydrate, lipid) using rigid acrylic feeding tubes. Protein meals consisted of lean chicken breast meat, casein, collagen, and gelatin. Carbohydrate meals included two complex (wheat starch, cellulose) and two simple carbohydrates (D-glucose, sucrose). Lipid meals consisted of lard and beef suet. Slurries were created with dehydrated chemicals by adding water until a consistency similar to maple syrup was achieved. Meal volumes were not controlled and varied and feeding treatments were randomly assigned to each individual python.

Following experimental feedings, snakes were placed inside metabolic chambers and oxygen consumption was measured over a 62-96 hour period, using flow-through respirometry. Trials where snakes regurgitated meals during metabolic measurements were excluded from the study. Snakes were given an experimental feeding every 14-21 days. Between experimental feedings, snakes were allowed to voluntarily consume one mouse or rat.

The post feeding metabolic responses for each of the 11 experimental meals were combined and compared with their standard metabolic rate.

The key findings from this experiment were:

  • Mean masses of eight pythons before and after experiment did not change significantly.
  • All meals had heats of combustion of 500 kJ except for simple carbohydrates, which were found to be lethal to these snakes at 500 kJ.
  • Mouse, chicken, casein, collagen, glucose, and sucrose meals induced an SDA response; gelatin, suet, lard, cellulose, and starch did not induce SDA.
  • SDA responses induced by meals with the largest and smallest volumes were not statistically different; intermediate meals induced the greatest SDA.
  • Gelatin appeared to be assimilated but is not cause a significant SDA response
  • Collagen caused an SDA response; however it was always completely regurgitated several days

Contact: Donna Krupa
American Physiological Society

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