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Diet Breadth Mediates the Prey Specificity of Venom Potency in Snakes
Open AccessArticle

Fangs for the Memories? A Survey of Pain in Snakebite Patients Does Not Support a Strong Role for Defense in the Evolution of Snake Venom Composition

1
Molecular Ecology and Fisheries Genetics Laboratory, School of Natural Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor LL57 2UW, UK
2
Department of Biosciences, College of Science, Swansea University, Swansea SA2 8PP, UK
3
Snakebite Assist, Pretoria ZA-0001, South Africa
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Toxins 2020, 12(3), 201; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins12030201
Received: 13 February 2020 / Revised: 16 March 2020 / Accepted: 19 March 2020 / Published: 22 March 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Evolutionary Ecology of Venom)
Animals use venoms for multiple purposes, most prominently for prey acquisition and self-defense. In snakes, venom composition often evolves as a result of selection for optimization for local diet. However, whether selection for a defensive function has also played a role in driving the evolution of venom composition has remained largely unstudied. Here, we use an online survey of snakebite victims to test a key prediction of a defensive function, that envenoming should result in the rapid onset of severe pain. From the analysis of 584 snakebite reports, involving 192 species of venomous snake, we find that the vast majority of bites do not result in severe early pain. Phylogenetic comparative analysis shows that where early pain after a bite evolves, it is often lost rapidly. Our results, therefore, do not support the hypothesis that natural selection for antipredator defense played an important role in the origin of venom or front-fanged delivery systems in general, although there may be intriguing exceptions to this rule. View Full-Text
Keywords: Defense; evolution; pain; selective pressure; snake; snakebite; survey; venom Defense; evolution; pain; selective pressure; snake; snakebite; survey; venom
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Ward-Smith, H.; Arbuckle, K.; Naude, A.; Wüster, W. Fangs for the Memories? A Survey of Pain in Snakebite Patients Does Not Support a Strong Role for Defense in the Evolution of Snake Venom Composition. Toxins 2020, 12, 201.

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