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Physiol Biochem Zool. 2003 Jul-Aug;76(4):447-58.

Effects of body mass, meal size, fast length, and temperature on specific dynamic action in the timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus).

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701, USA.


Detailed analysis of animal energy budgets requires information on the cost of digestion (specific dynamic action [SDA]), which can represent a significant proportion of ingested energy (up to 30% in infrequent feeders). We studied the effects of snake mass, temperature (25 degrees and 30 degrees C), fasting time (1 and 5 mo), and prey size (10%-50% of snake mass) on SDA in 26 timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus). We used flow-through respirometry to measure hourly CO(2) production rates (VCO2) for 1 d before and up to 17 d after feeding. Crotalus horridus, like previously studied viperids and boids, show large and ecologically relevant increases in metabolism due to feeding. Depending on treatment and individual, VCO2 increased to 2.8-11.8 times the resting metabolic rate within 12-45 h postfeeding and decreased to baseline within 4.3-15.4 d. Significant effects of snake mass, meal mass, and fast length were detected. Increased temperature decreased the time required to complete the process but had little effect on total energy expended on SDA. Energy expended on SDA increased with increasing fast length, snake mass, and prey mass. Considering all of our data, we found that a simple allometric relationship explained 96.7% of the variation in total CO(2) production during SDA. Calculations suggest that energy devoted to SDA may approach 20% of the total annual energy budget of snakes in nature. Discrepancies between our data and some previous studies draw attention to the fact that the measurement, expression, and analysis of SDA may be sensitive to several methodological and statistical assumptions.

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