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Even when they are starving rattlesnakes grow, eating themselves from within to gain length while reducing girth.
This finding goes against previous reports that reptiles shrunk during lean times, as would be expected.
The western diamondback rattlesnake can go two years without food. Marshall McCue of the University of Arkansas studied 16 of the venomous creatures for 168 days, or more than five months.
Snakes starved for the entire period fed on their own stores, converting protein to carbohydrates. Calcium amounts doubled.