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Author Topic: How do snakes digest large meals?  (Read 31410 times)

Offline hounddogjr

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How do snakes digest large meals?
« on: 23/11/2010 10:30:05 »
hounddogjr asked the Naked Scientists:
   
newbielink:http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/podcasts/ [nonactive].

Question:

Some large snakes are able to swallow large animals. Is it true they could go months if not a year between meals?

Also if this is true why does the food not spoil and get the snake sick?

What happens to the bones of the food?

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 23/11/2010 10:30:05 by _system »


 

Offline thedoc

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How do snakes digest large meals?
« Reply #1 on: 10/12/2010 15:26:07 »
We discussed this question on our  show
Diana -  Okay, interesting question. First of all, as far as I know, snakes can go about a month between meals, or at least Burmese pythons tend to go about a month between meals. Some might go for even longer. They will eat a huge massive meal, maybe a rabbit, maybe something bigger – I think you've all seen the picture of a snake trying to eat the alligator – and they have special cells which can actually breakdown even the most complex parts of an animal, even their bone. There’s a study a couple of years ago that found that snakes could actually digest bones of rabbits. They have cells which are shaped like golf tees which do this, which seem to be singular only to snakes. Also, there was some fantastic CT scan photography that was put on the website of the BBC quite recently which showed a rabbit, actually travelling through a snake and it took 130 hours for this rabbit to get digested. But in between meals, there's nothing inside the snake, so there’s no food to go off.
Click to visit the show page for the podcast in which this question is answered. Alternatively, listen to the answer now or [download as MP3]
« Last Edit: 10/12/2010 15:26:07 by _system »
 

Offline JnA

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How do snakes digest large meals?
« Reply #2 on: 01/12/2010 01:48:45 »
SInce I still can't see posts by the doc I'll assume that what I am about to say does not contradict ..

Snakes intestines will produce more cells and mucosa rapidly after a feed, helping with digestion. During times of 'fasting' (whihc is not really fasting just a lack of need to feed) the small intestine almost dormatises itself. This helps both in using less energy the animal can utilise elsewhere and with weight.
 Even so a large meal will mean not much movement for a while, if a snake is threatened and needs to move fast after a large meal it will regurgitate it.

Unlike the Komodo Lizard, who has no diaphragm, so will force large meals down its throat by ramming it into a tree (or similar).
 

Offline RD

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How do snakes digest large meals?
« Reply #3 on: 01/12/2010 07:58:51 »
Q. How do snakes digest large meals?
A. slowly ...

Quote
An Indian python, fed a rabbit, completed digestion in four or five days when kept at 82 degrees, in a week when kept at 71 degrees, but still had rabbit in its stomach after two weeks when kept at 64 degrees.
http://discovermagazine.com/1994/apr/diningwiththesna362

Quote
why does the food not spoil and get the snake sick?

Sometimes that happens if the prey is large (in comparison with the snake)...

Quote
Occasionally snakes are unable to vomit and are killed by the putrefying prey inside them.
http://discovermagazine.com/1994/apr/diningwiththesna362
« Last Edit: 01/12/2010 08:11:34 by RD »
 

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How do snakes digest large meals?
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