MAR 29, 2020 4:40 AM PDT

Evolution of Snake Venom Attributed to Prey, Not Self-Defense

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

When snakes feel threatened, they may lash out at the aggressor with a painful bite out of self-defense. In some cases, the biting snake may be venomous, spelling out a possible life or death scenario for the snakebite victim. But while many snakes are notorious for biting out of self-defense, researchers now argue that self-defense doesn’t appear to be the driving factor behind snake venom evolution.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Citing the abstract of a paper published just last week in the journal Toxins, snake venom evolution seems to be more deeply rooted in a snake’s hunting habits than its necessity for self-defense. The researchers reached this conclusion after polling hundreds of herpetologists and snake owners about their experiences with being bitten by their snakes and learning just how long after the bite that the pain ensued.

What they learned was that the majority of snakebites didn’t trigger the lightning-fast pain responses that we’d come to expect from a self-defense attack.

The logic behind the research was simple: an animal whose primary purpose for inflicting pain is in self-defense would need to inflict immediate and incapacitating pain to get away, much like a bee’s sting. Many snake venoms, on the other hand, are slow to impact the victim, and this implies that snake venom is better suited for slowing down potential prey to be devoured than it is for stunning an aggressor to make a getaway.

"Our results suggest little evidence for widespread evolution of venoms driven by their use in defense, though interesting exceptions likely exist such as the defensive use of venom 'spitting' in some cobras, and these specific cases deserve further study," explained Swansea University's Dr. Kevin Arbuckle, a co-author of the paper.

Related: Blue coral snakes have venom unlike any other snake

"Even though we might have expected defending your life to be more important than feeding, it turns out that natural selection for diet does seem to be the main driver of venom evolution in snakes," added Dr. Wolfgang Wüster, another co-author of the paper.

It’s difficult to dispute such a rock-solid conclusion, and the data only further supports the logic behind the researchers’ arguments. That said, perhaps this novel study could open the door to future research that will help us better understand venom usage in general among all animal types. Furthermore, maybe we could learn why some snake venoms are faster-acting than others.

Source: Phys.org, Toxins

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
MAR 22, 2020
Plants & Animals
MAR 22, 2020
Narwhals With Larger Tusks Have a Better Chance of Finding a Mate
Narwhals are often referred to as the ‘unicorns of the sea’ because of the unicorn-esque tusks they grow on ...
MAR 24, 2020
Plants & Animals
MAR 24, 2020
This Beetle Climbs Tall Trees to Toss Others Over the Edge
Different animals exhibit all kinds of different behaviors when searching for mates in the wilderness, but perhaps one o ...
MAR 27, 2020
Health & Medicine
MAR 27, 2020
Possible Link Between Marijuana Use and Heart Health
Research presented in a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that 2. ...
APR 16, 2020
Earth & The Environment
APR 16, 2020
Scientists Discover Evidence of Ancient Rainforest in Antarctica
Back in 2017, Dr. Johann Klages and his team were going about their usual business of drilling into the seafloor to extr ...
MAY 07, 2020
Earth & The Environment
MAY 07, 2020
How will Climate Change Impact Arctic Shore Ice?
Many research projects have examined climate change’s impact on sea ice and glaciers. However, shorefast ice, whic ...
MAY 24, 2020
Plants & Animals
MAY 24, 2020
Bees May 'Trick' Plants Into Flowering When Pollen is Scarce
It’s no secret that bumblebees depend heavily on pollen for their unique worker-centric lifestyles. In fact, whene ...
Loading Comments...