Heart of burmese python incurs dramatic growth after a meal by reacting to fatty acids in the snake's plasma.

"The Burmese python…frequently goes months without eating and then gorges, sometimes downing an entire deer. To accommodate the sudden rush of sugars, fats, and proteins, its body goes into overdrive. Its metabolism speeds up nearly 40 times, and many of its organs, including its long digestive tract, double in size. Its heart also expands by 40%, presumably to pump greater volumes of blood throughout its body." (Strain 2011)

Researchers suspect that the cardiac tissue fuels its expansion by burning through three types of nutrients including myristic acid, a common ingredient in many animal fats and other reptile foods.


"Burmese pythons display a marked increase in heart mass after a large meal. We investigated the molecular mechanisms of this physiological heart growth with the goal of applying this knowledge to the mammalian heart. We found that heart growth in pythons is characterized by myocyte hypertrophy in the absence of cell proliferation and by activation of physiological signal transduction pathways. Despite high levels of circulating lipids, the postprandial python heart does not accumulate triglycerides or fatty acids. Instead, there is robust activation of pathways of fatty acid transport and oxidation combined with increased expression and activity of superoxide dismutase, a cardioprotective enzyme. We also identified a combination of fatty acids in python plasma that promotes physiological heart growth when injected into either pythons or mice." (Riquelme 2011:528)

Journal article
A comparative study of age-related hearing loss in wild type and insulin-like growth factor I deficient miceFront. Neuroanat.December 7, 2010

The incredibly expanding snake heart

Journal article
Fatty Acids Identified in the Burmese Python Promote Beneficial Cardiac GrowthRiquelme CA; Magida JA; Harrison BC; Wall CE; Marr TG; Secor SM; Leinwand LA

Indian Python.Python molurusSpecies