Special Issue "The Behavioral Ecology of Venom"

A special issue of Toxins (ISSN 2072-6651). This special issue belongs to the section "Animal Venoms".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 June 2020.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. William K. Hayes
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Earth and Biological Sciences, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, California, USA
Interests: Behavior, ecology, morphology, and venom composition of venomous arthropods and snakes; envenomation and its treatment in humans; behavior, ecology, taxonomy, and conservation of endangered reptiles and birds
Prof. Dr. Matthew P. Rowe
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Biology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, USA
Interests: Predator-prey relationships, coevolution, interspecific communication, aposematism, aversive conditioning, mimicry, and risk assessment of venomous arthropods and grasshopper mice; conservation biology; science pedagogy

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The theme of this Special Issue is the behavioral ecology of all things that relate to venomous animals, which, by definition, are critters that inject their toxins by biting or stinging another organism.

Biting and stinging are behaviors, of course, and there is a growing literature detailing how and when venomous animals deliver their toxins, in both predatory and defensive contexts. Because venom production has both energetic and ecological costs, it is not surprising that venomous animals as different as scorpions and snakes meter their venom when attempting to deter a predator, injecting more of the precious slurry, or a more potent and expensive version thereof, when predatory risk is higher. These taxa and other groups also meter their venom offensively by injecting less venom, or none, when a prey item can easily be subdued. Venom can also be used for other functions, such as communication, reproduction, intraspecific and interspecific competition, and antimicrobial immunity. Bees spray their venom to alert others of a threat to the hive; male scorpions sting their mates during courtship; anemones sting their neighbors as they jostle for space; and ants spray venom on their nest and eggs to inhibit microbes.

Some animals acquire their toxins from others, either through their diet, or more perversely, via theft. Other animals, such as ants and social spiders, even use their venom cooperatively to procure larger meals than they could acquire individually. We welcome submissions, either reviews or original research, that add to our understanding of the behavior and ecology of venomous organisms themselves.

However, we want this Special Issue to be richer, more diverse, and thus more engaging than solely focusing on the behavior of venom producers. The prey of venomous organisms also behave so as not to be envenomated. Colonial ground squirrels, for example, adjust their mobbing behavior based on the rattling sounds of a rattlesnake enemy, responding more cautiously to the rattling from a larger, warmer, and more dangerous snake. Likewise, predators of venomous organisms also behave! When feeding on venomous scorpions, whiptail lizards repeatedly bite, shake, and throw a scorpion but simply bite and eat a non-venomous cricket. Thus, we encourage contributions exploring the behavior of any and all potential victims of envenomation, be they predators or prey.

But wait! We’re not done yet. There is yet another player in this community of critters interacting with a venomous member. These are the imitators, the mimics who benefit from their resemblance to a venomous organism, be they harmless hoverfly mimics of painful bumblebees, or benign milk snakes whose banding patterns of red, yellow, and black can easily be confused with the similar markings of potentially deadly coral snakes. While the behavior of such imposters themselves can be used to enhance their mimicry, as in the head flattening of gopher snakes when imitating rattlesnakes, it is the behavior of the predators, the dupes, that makes such mimicry possible. Behavior, thus, is integral to understanding mimicry complexes, and submissions on this topic would be welcomed.

Lastly, we would enjoy contributions from researchers studying animals that are frequently overlooked as being venomous, such as the hematophagous animals, the vampires. By most definitions, vampire bats, mosquitoes, biting flies, ticks, and assassin bugs are venomous, and they can have dramatic impacts on the evolution, ecology, and yes, even the behavior of their hosts. Original research or thoughtful reviews dealing with the behavioral ecology of any of these vampires or their targets would also be valued.

We look forward to a diverse and engaging volume dealing broadly with the behavioral ecology of venom!

With warm regards,

Prof. Dr. William K. Hayes
Prof. Dr. Matthew P. Rowe
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Toxins is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Venom
  • Toxin
  • Behavior
  • Ecology
  • Venom metering
  • Risk assessment
  • Bites and stings
  • Predatory and defensive
  • Mimicry
  • Hematophagous

Published Papers (2 papers)

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Research

Open AccessCommunication
Behavioral, Physiological, Demographic and Ecological Impacts of Hematophagous and Endoparasitic Insects on an Arctic Ungulate
Toxins 2020, 12(5), 334; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins12050334 - 20 May 2020
Abstract
Animals that deliver a toxic secretion through a wound or to the body surface without a wound are considered venomous and toxungenous, respectively. Hematophagous insects, such as mosquitoes (Aedes spp.), meet the criteria for venomous, and some endoparasitic insects, such as warble [...] Read more.
Animals that deliver a toxic secretion through a wound or to the body surface without a wound are considered venomous and toxungenous, respectively. Hematophagous insects, such as mosquitoes (Aedes spp.), meet the criteria for venomous, and some endoparasitic insects, such as warble flies (Hypoderma tarandi), satisfy the definition for toxungenous. The impacts of these insects on their hosts are wide ranging. In the Arctic, their primary host is the most abundant ungulate, the caribou (Rangifer tarandus). The most conspicuous impacts of these insects on caribou are behavioral. Caribou increase their movements during peak insect harassment, evading and running away from these parasites. These behavioral responses scale up to physiological effects as caribou move to less productive habitats to reduce harassment which increases energetic costs due to locomotion, reduces nutrient intake due to less time spent foraging, and can lead to poorer physiological condition. Reduced physiological condition can lead to lower reproductive output and even higher mortality rates, with the potential to ultimately affect caribou demographics. Caribou affect all trophic levels in the Arctic and the processes that connect them, thus altering caribou demographics could impact the ecology of the region. Broadening the definitions of venomous and toxungenous animals to include hematophagous and endoparasitic insects should not only generate productive collaborations among toxinologists and parasitologists, but will also lead to a deeper understanding of the ecology of toxic secretions and their widespread influence. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Behavioral Ecology of Venom)
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Open AccessArticle
Defensive Venoms: Is Pain Sufficient for Predator Deterrence?
Toxins 2020, 12(4), 260; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins12040260 - 17 Apr 2020
Abstract
Pain, though unpleasant, is adaptive in calling an animal’s attention to potential tissue damage. A long list of animals representing diverse taxa possess venom-mediated, pain-inducing bites or stings that work by co-opting the pain-sensing pathways of potential enemies. Typically, such venoms include toxins [...] Read more.
Pain, though unpleasant, is adaptive in calling an animal’s attention to potential tissue damage. A long list of animals representing diverse taxa possess venom-mediated, pain-inducing bites or stings that work by co-opting the pain-sensing pathways of potential enemies. Typically, such venoms include toxins that cause tissue damage or disrupt neuronal activity, rendering painful stings honest indicators of harm. But could pain alone be sufficient for deterring a hungry predator? Some venomologists have argued “no”; predators, in the absence of injury, would “see through” the bluff of a painful but otherwise benign sting or bite. Because most algogenic venoms are also toxic (although not vice versa), it has been difficult to disentangle the relative contributions of each component to predator deterrence. Southern grasshopper mice (Onychomys torridus) are voracious predators of arthropods, feeding on a diversity of scorpion species whose stings vary in painfulness, including painful Arizona bark scorpions (Centruroides sculpturatus) and essentially painless stripe-tailed scorpions (Paravaejovis spinigerus). Moreover, southern grasshopper mice have evolved resistance to the lethal toxins in bark scorpion venom, rendering a sting from these scorpions painful but harmless. Results from a series of laboratory experiments demonstrate that painful stings matter. Grasshopper mice preferred to prey on stripe-tailed scorpions rather than bark scorpions when both species could sting; the preference disappeared when each species had their stingers blocked. A painful sting therefore appears necessary for a scorpion to deter a hungry grasshopper mouse, but it may not always be sufficient: after first attacking and consuming a painless stripe-tailed scorpion, many grasshopper mice went on to attack, kill, and eat a bark scorpion even when the scorpion was capable of stinging. Defensive venoms that result in tissue damage or neurological dysfunction may, thus, be required to condition greater aversion than venoms causing pain alone. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Behavioral Ecology of Venom)
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