When they moved above ground, they developed the capacity to dramatically shift their metabolism, from low to high, in order to consume what might have been a rare meal.
"Their morphology has changed, their physiology, their metabolism, and their genes, their genomes have changed to match. So that is a pretty neat finding," said Pollock.
Understanding how the snake's body orchestrates such major changes in key organs could offer a new understanding of the mechanisms behind human conditions such as organ failure, ulcers, metabolic disorders and more, said co-author Stephen Secor.
"With its genome in hand, we can now explore the many untapped molecular mechanisms it uses to dramatically increase metabolic rate, to shut down acid production, to improve intestinal function, and to rapidly increase the size of its heart, intestine, pancreas, liver, and kidneys," said Secor, associate professor of biological sciences at the University of Alabama.
The Burmese python genome study was led by Todd Castoe, an assistant professor of biology at The University of Texas at Arlington College of Science, and included 38 co-authors from four countries.