"The Burmese Python in Wonderland: How the Snake Grows and Shrinks after It Eats"

I came across this neat press release from the American Physiological Society which describes new research on understanding how the genes of burmese pythons are actually altered by feeding. Fascinating! The research was published in the May issue of Physiological Genomics. Here is a brief synopsis. For the full story, visit the APS website.

Yep, that's a python eating a rodent.

What is so fascinating about Burmese pythons is that their body literally is reconstructed within 3 days of eating resulting in the doubling or organ size and a 10-44 fold increase in metabolism. Then, within about 10 days afterwards, everything returns to the pre-meal state. This remarkable expansion and shrinkage is due to changes in gene expression. The research team focused on the small intestine as it double in mass and ability to absorb nutrients from the food during this expansion. What they discovered was that at least 2,000 genes are altered in the intestines within 6 hours of ingesting a meal.

The other reason that this research is so interesting is that the similarities in how the burmese python's organs work is similar to our own organs. Therefore, according to the study authors, findings from snakes can be applied to understanding the human body and potentially developing new therapies for human diseases, like cancer.

You can read the full press release here.


Andrew AL, Card DC, Ruggiero RP, Schield DR, Adams RH, Pollock DD, Secor SM, Castoe TA. Rapid changes in gene expression direct rapid shifts in intestinal form and function in the Burmese python after feeding. Physiological Genomics. 47: 147-157, 2015.


More like this

As many people know, snakes do not need to eat very often. What I just learned from a recent article in Science magazine is that for Burmese pythons, many organs actually increase in mass after eating a large meal and blood levels of fatty acids are substantially elevated. Riquelme et al, were…
The era of genetic sequencing has revealed as much about the ties that bind us to other animals as the differences that set us apart. Often, comparing the genomes of different species shows that large changes in body size, shape and form are not mirrored by similar changes at a genetic level. New…
Episode 2 of series 2 of Inside Nature's Giants was devoted to pythons (for an article reviewing ep 1, go here). Specifically, to Burmese pythons Python molurus. And, quite right too. Snakes are among the weirdest and most phenomenally modified of tetrapods: in contrast to we boring tetrapodal…
Burmese python, Python molurus bivittatus Robert Pope, a researcher at Indiana University South Bend and Jean-Herv/(c) Lignot from Louis Pasteur University in France have discovered a new type of cell--found only in the Burmese python's stomach--that helps the animal survive on only a few meals a…

Very interesting..........i enjoy reading it,.