Saturday, 8 March 2014

Why are some snakes so venomous?

3 hours ago by Timothy N. W. Jackson

Australia is world famous for its venomous critters, including its many highly venomous snakes.

The snake that holds the popular title of "world's most venomous" is the inland taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus), an inhabitant of Australia's arid interior. Astonishingly, a single bite from an inland taipan is capable of delivering enough venom to kill 250,000 lab mice.

The venom of the inland taipan has attracted considerable research interest and the toxins responsible for its extreme toxicity have been identified. Effective antivenom also exists for the treatment of bites.

What we don't know, though, is why the inland taipan needs such toxic venom. We know almost nothing about the evolutionary selection pressures that have refined and enhanced the toxins present in the venom of this iconic species of snake.

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