Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Biological Sciences


Biological Sciences


College of Science and Mathematics


Christine Strand

Advisor Department

Biological Sciences

Advisor College

College of Science and Mathematics


Pythons are a well-studied model of postprandial physiological plasticity. Consuming a meal has been shown by past work to evoke a suite of physiological changes in pythons and elicit one of the largest documented increases in post-feeding metabolic rates relative to resting values. However, little is known about how this plasticity manifests in the brains of ball pythons, Python regius. Previous work using the cell-birth marker 5-bromo-12’-deoxyuridine (BrdU) has shown that cell proliferation in the python brain increases six days following meal consumption. This study aimed to confirm these findings and build on them in the long term by tracking the survival and maturation of these newly created cells across a two-month period. We investigated whether these cells differentiated into neurons using double-immunofluorescence for BrdU and a reptile-specific neuronal marker (Fox3). We did not find significantly greater rates of cell proliferation in snakes six days after feeding, but we did observe more newly created cells in neurogenic regions in fed snakes two months after the meal. Feeding did not influence neurogenesis, but feeding does appear to have a neuroprotective effect. More newly created cells survived in fed snakes two months later, particularly in the olfactory bulbs and lateral cortex. These findings shed light on the extent of postprandial plasticity and regional differences in the creation of new neural cells in the brains of ball pythons.

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