The effects of fasting duration on the metabolic response to feeding in Python molurus: an evaluation of the energetic costs associated with gastrointestinal growth and upregulation

Physiol Biochem Zool. Jul-Aug 2002;75(4):360-8. doi: 10.1086/342769.


The oxygen uptake of Python molurus increases enormously following feeding, and the elevated metabolism coincides with rapid growth of the gastrointestinal organs. There are opposing views regarding the energetic costs of the gastrointestinal hypertrophy, and this study concerns the metabolic response to feeding after fasting periods of different duration. Since mass and function of the gastrointestinal organs remain elevated for several days after feeding, the metabolic increment following a second meal given soon after the first can reveal whether the metabolic costs relate to the upregulation of gastrointestinal organs or merely the metabolic cost of processing a meal. Eight juvenile pythons were kept on a regular feeding regime for 6 mo after hatching. At the beginning of the metabolic measurements, they were fed mice (20% of body mass), and the metabolic response to similarly sized meals was determined following 3, 5, 7, 14, 21, 30, and 60 d of fasting. Our data show that the metabolic response following feeding was large, ranging from 21% to 35% of ingested energy (mean=27%), but the metabolic response seems independent of fasting duration. Hence, the extraordinarily large cost of digestion in P. molurus does not appear to correlate with increased function and growth of gastrointestinal organs but must be associated with other physiological processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Boidae / metabolism
  • Boidae / physiology*
  • Carbon Dioxide / metabolism
  • Digestion / physiology
  • Digestive System / metabolism
  • Digestive System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Fasting / physiology*
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Time Factors
  • Uric Acid / metabolism


  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Uric Acid
  • Oxygen