Designer Venom

Snakes are taking “you are what you eat” LITERALLY!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

The effects of snake venom can range from harmless to deadly. But why not a one size fits all approach? Or one BITE, as it were.

Kevin Healy from the National University of Ireland, Galway collected snakebite stats on over one hundred snake species. He compared the amount of venom per bite, snake size, and prey size.

Most importantly, Healy looked at the different TYPES of prey the snakes ate. Testing venom against lab mice isn’t always accurate — snakes eat other animals too!

Based on the data, Healy thinks that snake venoms have evolved to be prey-specific. For example, sea snake venom isn’t lethal to mice, but it is for fish.

Habitat and prey abundance may also play a factor. Snakes with fewer food choices may store larger toxic doses to ensure a kill.

Healy’s findings may help predict if any still untested venoms are lethal.

As for me, how about a DONUT-specific venom? Just asking.