Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Eat like a python = run like a horse? Or how digestive regulation has evolved

A few weeks ago, Prof. Stephen Secor from the University of Alabama visited Fresno State to speak in the Department of Biology seminar series. Professor Secor lectured on his studies of the regulation of digestive systems as an evolutionary response. His study subjects were pythons who tend to fast for long periods of time between feedings. His finds show that the upregulation of the digestive system in short bursts is more energetically favorable to species that tend to fast for long periods of time. Upregulation is the process where a body system goes from a complete state of dormancy to fully functioning with a matter of hours and then goes dormant once the necessary function has been carried out. Examples of upregulatory animals are pythons, boas, and hibernating animals to an extent. This is atypical of other digestive systems that tend to idle between meals instead of complete shutdown. Signs of expatiated upregulation are increased nerve activity, increased blood flow to system, increased heat, and production of bodily fluids like stomach acid. His ideas were to prove that the quickened upregulation is an evolutionary response. The quickened upregulation save an animal more energy than constantly idling the body system. This reduces the necessary amount of food intake and reduces the need for the animal to hunt down prey. The lecture was very informative and interesting.

--contributed by Mark Garcia



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