A scene from a Larson cartoon? Perhaps. But it is also a notion based in scientific fact.
A team of UC Irvine researchers has found that pythons use significantly more energy to digest proteins than they do carbohydrates, revealing that metabolic rates needed for digestion are based on the content of the food instead of the volume. The findings also provide more information on understanding how other animals - and humans - metabolize food and the importance of their diet.
Marshall McCue, Albert Bennett and James Hicks, researchers in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCI, will present these findings at the American Physiological Society intersociety meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 27, in San Diego, Calif. The researchers tested pythons to determine the reptiles' specific dynamic action (SDA), which is the metabolic increment associated with a python's digestion, assimilation and excretion of specific foods. SDA is determined not by how much a python eats, but what it eats. Moreover, the energy required for a certain level of SDA accounts for a large energy expenditure that may reduce the energy available for other activities. The researchers used pythons because their metabolic rates vary drastically from when they are at rest, to when they are digesting.
Hatchling Burmese pythons were raised in the laboratory on a diet of mice and rats for four months prior to experiments. The pythons were then fed various meals of proteins, carbohydrates and lipids. Protein meals
Contact: Tom Vasich
University of California - Irvine