Scientists Used Supercomputers to Learn How Pythons Regenerate Their Organs

Python closeup. Image: Florida Fish and Wildlife/Flickr SNAKE BLOOD
After Burmese pythons enjoy a meal, they undergo an extended period of fasting to save on energy. During this time, which can last as long as a year, their organs waste away.

By Lisa Cumming | MOTHERBOARD

According to researchers in Texas, when the pythons get around to feeding again, their atrophied major organs increase in mass by 40 to 100 percent to prepare for digestion—apparently it takes a lot to swallow a mouse whole. Within 48 hours of feeding, in fact, Burmese pythons can see up to a 44-fold increase in their metabolism. Their research is described the journal in BMC Genomics.

Pythons spend probably 95 per cent of their lives fasting, said lead author Todd Castoe, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Texas at Arlington and an expert in snake genomics. Rather than have their organs using up all the precious energy during the fasting period, they let them waste away. In this study, pythons were fed in the lab every 30 days, but according to Castoe, going that long without food is nothing for these snakes compared to what they can face in the wild.

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