'Starving snakes reduce energy use to survive'

Energy reduction is the name of the game for snakes, which are able to lower their metabolic rates by up to 70 percent to survive prolonged periods without food while continuing to grow, a new study reveals.

'Starving snakes reduce energy use to survive'
Energy reduction is the name of the game for snakes, which are able to lower their metabolic rates by up to 70 percent to survive prolonged periods without food while continuing to grow, a new study reveals.

"These animals take energy reduction to a whole new level," said lead author Marshall McCue, a biology graduate student at the University of Arkansas. The research, detailed in the September issue of the journal Zoology, is an extension of McCue's past studies that revealed biochemical changes in the western diamondback rattlesnake.

McCue didn't feed 62 snakes belonging to one of three different species (ratsnake, western diamondback rattlesnake and ball python) for about six months and observed their metabolic rates. It is typical for snakes in the wild to go without food for this long. He discovered snakes reduced their standard metabolic rates, some by up to 72 percent.

"Snakes already had low energy demands. We didn't know they could go lower," McCue explained.

Despite the lack of food, the snakes continued to grow in length.

"To me, this suggests that there must be a strong selective advantage to growing longer," McCue said. He added evolution has created snakes that are extremely efficient using available resources that come from inside their bodies.

During the first stages of starvation, all the snakes burned up selected fat stores. The next energy source to go differed among the snake species. The ratsnakes, which live in an environment with abundant rodent prey, began to break down proteins faster than the pythons or rattlesnakes.

"The protein use was higher in the snakes less well-adapted to starvation," McCue said.

Understanding how snakes can succeed in food-scarce environments will add to the overall picture of snakes' evolution.

Agencies
Last Mod: 29 Ağustos 2007, 18:29
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