o The Frog Blog: Scanning Technique Reveals Secrets of Snake Digestion

Monday, 27 September 2010

Scanning Technique Reveals Secrets of Snake Digestion

Scientists in Denmark have produced spectacular images of a Burmese Python's entire internal organ structure and vascular system using a combination of computer tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The python was digesting a rat at the time!

By fiddling with the settings for contrast and light intensity during the scanning process, the scientists were able to highlight specific organs and make them appear in different colours. The non-invasive CT and MRI scans could let scientists look at the snake's anatomy without the need for other invasive methods such as dissections. The results are spectacular, with full body images of the python and the rat digesting inside it!

The Burmese Python was scanned before ingesting a rat and then at two, 16, 24, 32, 48, 72 and 132 hours after dinner. The images revealed the gradual disappearance of the rat's body, accompanied by an overall expansion of the snake's intestine, shrinking of the gallbladder and a 25 percent increase in heart volume. The picture across shows the python mid - digestion.

Last year Lorcan Maule, currently Form V, wrote an essay on the Burmese Python. According to Lorcan "the Burmese Python is the 6th largest snake in the world, it is native to tropical areas of southern and south east Asia. They are found near water and they are semi aquatic, but can also be found in trees. They are normally 3.7 meters long, but some have been found to be up to 5.8 meters long. They are light coloured snakes with many brown blotches boarded in black down the back of the snake." Click here to read the full article.

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