The British Herpetological Society

The Herpetological Journal is the Society's prestigious quarterly scientific journal. Articles are listed in Biological Abstracts, Current Awareness in Biological Sciences,Current Contents, Science Citation Index, and Zoological Record.

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pdf 01. Digestion, specific dynamic action, and ecological energetics of Natrix maura


Open Access


Authors: Adrian Hailey And P. M. C. Davies

Abstract: Absorption efficiency of viperine snakes feeding on goldfish increased slightly with temperature, the rate of digestion increased greatly. Digestion was partial at 15°C and sometimes followed by regurgitation: at 10°C all prey were regurgitated. Prolonged basking in N. maura in the field probably serves to increase the speed of digestion. The metabolic cost of maintaining a high body tern perature (Tb) during digestion is equivalent to 4 percent of the energy of the prey.
The level and time course of raised oxygen consumption (V02) following feeding on fish varied with Tb, being large and short lived (2 days) at 35°C, small but long lasting (10 days) at 15°C. The total energy cost of this raised V02 accounted for 28 per cent of the energy in the food. V02 during maximal activity after feeding at 35°C was greater than that of post-absorptive snakes, indicating that the capacity for oxygen exchange does not limit the active metabolic rate of N. maura. There was no depression of oxygen consumption during hibernation.
Food consumption could not be satisfactorily estimated from the proportion of snakes (a) found handling prey or (b) with prey in the stomach. Data on metabolic costs, reproductive effort and growth are combined to give an energy budget for N. maura. The energy turnover was about a third of that predicted from studies of lizards. Snake and lizard energy budgets differ in the ratio production/assimilation; this was 0.41-0.57 in four snakes, and 0. I 3-0.18 in six lizards. Snakes have lower energy turnover, but allocate a greater proportion of this to reproduction and growth.


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