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Effects of temperature on the metabolic response to feeding in Python molurus.

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Center of Old-Fashioned Physiology, Stationsgade 26, 8240, Risskov, Denmark.


As ectothermic vertebrates, reptiles undergo diurnal and seasonal changes in body temperature, which affect many biological functions. In conjunction with a general review regarding the effects of temperature on digestion in reptiles, we describe the effects of various temperatures (20-35 degrees C) on the metabolic response to digestion in the Burmese python (Python molurus). The snakes were fed mice amounting to 20% of their body weight and gas exchange (oxygen uptake and CO(2) production) were measured until digestion had ended and gas exchange returned to fasting levels. Elevated temperature was associated with a faster and larger metabolic increase after ingestion, and the time required to return to fasting levels was markedly longer at low temperature. The factorial increase between fasting oxygen consumption (VO(2)) and maximal VO(2) during digestion was, however, similar at all temperatures studied. Furthermore, the integrated SDA response was not affected by temperature suggesting the costs associated with digestion are temperature-independent. Other studies on reptiles show that digestive efficiency is only marginally affected by temperature and we conclude that selection of higher body temperatures during digestion (postprandial thermophilic response) primarily reduces the time required for digestion.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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