Burmese pythons normally consume large meals after long intervals. We measured gut contents, O2 consumption rates, small intestinal brush-border uptake rates of amino acids and glucose, organ masses and blood chemistry in pythons during the 30 days following ingestion of meals equivalent to 25% of their body mass. Within 1-3 days after ingestion, O2 consumption rates, intestinal nutrient uptake rates and uptake capacities peaked at 17, 6-26 and 11-24 times fasting levels, respectively. Small intestinal mass doubled, and other organs also increased in mass. Changes in blood chemistry included a 78% decline in PO2 and a large 'alkaline tide' associated with gastric acid section (i.e. a rise in blood pH and HCO3- concentrations and a fall in Cl- concentration). All of these values returned to fasting levels by the time of defecation at 8-14 days. The response of O2 consumption (referred to as specific dynamic action, SDA) is the largest, and the upregulation of intestinal nutrient transporters the second largest, response reported for any vertebrate upon feeding. The SDA is a large as the factorial rise in O2 consumption measured in mammalian sprinters and is sustained for much longer. The extra energy expended for digestion is equivalent to 32% of the meal's energy yield, with much of it being measured before the prey energy was absorbed.

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