Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 173, Issue 7, pp 541–547 | Cite as

Distribution of lipids from the yolk to the tissues during development of the water python (Liasis fuscus)

  • B. K. Speake
  • M. B. Thompson
  • F. E. Thacker
  • G. S. Bedford
Original Paper


Energy metabolism during embryonic development of snakes differs in several respects from the patterns displayed by other reptiles. There are, however, no previous reports describing the main energy source for development, the yolk lipids, in snake eggs. There is also no information on the distribution of yolk fatty acids to the tissues during snake development. In eggs of the water python (Liasis fuscus), we report that triacylglycerol, phospholipid, cholesteryl ester and free cholesterol, respectively, form 70.3%, 14.1%, 5.7% and 2.1% of the total lipid. The main polyunsaturate of the yolk lipid classes is 18:2n-6. The yolk phospholipid contains 20:4n-6 and 22:6n-3 at 13.0% and 3.6% (w/w), respectively. Approximately 10% and 30% of the initial egg lipids are respectively recovered in the residual yolk and the fat body of the hatchling. A major function of yolk lipid is, therefore, to provision the neonate with large energy reserves. The proportion of 22:6n-3 in brain phospholipid of the hatchling is 11.1% (w/w): this represents only 0.24% of the amount of 22:6n-3 originally present in the egg. This also contrasts with values for free-living avian species where the proportion of DHA in neonatal brain phospholipid is 16–19%. In the liver of the newly hatched python, triacylglycerol, phospholipid and cholesteryl ester, respectively, form 68.2%, 7.7% and 14.3% of total lipid. This contrasts with embryos of birds where cholesteryl ester forms up to 80% of total liver lipid and suggests that the mechanism of lipid transfer in the water python embryo differs in some respects from the avian situation.

Key words

Yolk Embryo Lipid Docosahexaenoic acid Snake 



arachidonic acid


docosahexaenoic acid


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. K. Speake
    • 1
  • M. B. Thompson
    • 2
  • F. E. Thacker
    • 1
  • G. S. Bedford
    • 3
  1. 1.Avian Science Research CentreSACAuchincruiveUK
  2. 2.School of Biological Sciences and Wildlife Research Institute, Zoology Building (A08)University of SydneyAustralia
  3. 3.School of Biological Environmental and Chemical SciencesNorthern Territory UniversityDarwinAustralia

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