General, Research, Technology

How and why do snakes produce poison?

Why do snakes need poison? This seemingly simple question has long been the subject of debate among specialists studying the behavior of these reptiles. Differing in composition and effects, snake poisons are not only unique tools for self-defense and food, but also constantly improving tools in the struggle for survival on the planet. After all, almost everything is afraid of snakes, from us humans, to the largest and most dangerous animals. And all because their bite can immobilize, bring unthinkable pain and, in the end, kill. Why did nature endow these creatures with such a unique ability? Let's try to figure it out together in this article.

Snakes do not have a very developed intellect. Maybe they compensate for this by the presence of dangerous poisons?

Fear of snakes is called herpetophobia , and in some people reptiles cause only a slight dislike, while others at the sight of snakes can panic. Read about how fears come from in people in this article.

Why do snakes need poison?

As stated, many are afraid of snakes. And, perhaps, not in vain: according to statistics, annually more than 100,000 people in the world die from snakebites. Basically, all these deaths occur as a result of self-defense, manifested by the predator in relation to humans. Due to the huge variety of poisons produced by snakes, the search for an antidote for each of them is sometimes simply impossible, but the difficulties of scientists do not end there. The fact is that over time, snake poisons become more complex in composition, writes Researchers simply do not have time to quickly notice these changes and create new antidotes.

Snake venom is a real cocktailfrom a variety of substances that are produced by special glands, which in most species are located behind the eyes. Despite the danger of snake venoms, people have learned to use them for good purposes. Having a rich composition that includes various amino acids, snake venoms are often used in medicine as a painkiller and anti-inflammatory agent.

Amino acids - This is a kind of building material from which muscles, tendons and even hair are formed.

For a long time it was believed that the main functionnatural poisons is to restrain and repel the predator attack until the aggressor is killed or injured. In addition, by injecting poison into the body of another living creature, the snake instinctively realizes that the pain acts on him in such a way that he cannot quickly hide in a safe place. Be that as it may, the results of a new study showed that the “humanity” attributed to snakes, forcing them to use deadly poisons only for self-defense, actually has nothing to do with reality.

Snake poisons found their use even in official medicine

To test the theory of evolutionsnake venom, researchers from Bangor University decided to interview those representatives of professions who, on duty, have to most often suffer from poisonous snake bites. So, specially selected snake keepers, reptile researchers and ecologists filled out questionnaires in which they talked about the poison bites they experienced and, in particular, the level of pain they experienced.

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Do snakes bite painfully?

Interviewing more than 368 people who received in totalthe complexity of 584 bites from 192 different species of snakes, the researchers found that about 30% of all bites of these reptiles have a fairly low level of pain a few minutes after the bite; only 15% of cases when snake bites caused debilitating pain in the first minutes after an animal’s attack on humans were detected, and 55% of respondents noted that the snake bites they suffered were almost completely painless. Thus, the theory that snake venom was invented by nature only to scare away a potential enemy for self-defense purposes was fundamentally wrong.

Sometimes snakebites kill people in just oneday. In 1957, the scientist Karl Paterson Schmidt, who gave names to more than 200 species of snakes, tried to study the green tree snake of the Boomslang species. She bit his thumb, but Karl thought it was not very poisonous and just tried to squeeze blood. After 24 hours, he was no longer alive.

Having analyzed the poisons that caused the appearanceacute pain within a few minutes of being bitten, the researchers found that they had evolved several times in their entire history with the goal of causing as much harm as possible to their victim or adversary. In other words, some venomous snakes clearly do not intend to simply defend themselves in response to danger, preferring an active attack to defense.

In the photo - a Brazilian spear-headed snake, the poison of which causes very severe pain

It’s hard to argue with the findings of scientists, especially ifcarefully study the properties of the poisons of some snakes. So, the Brazilian spear-headed snake (Bothrops moojeni), considered one of the most poisonous snakes on the planet, produces poison with substances whose main function is to cause pain. Spitting cobras have a unique behavioral adaptation for the use of protective poison, and their poisons cause severe pain in contact with the eyes. Instinctively aware of the most insecure places on the victim’s body, snakes, although they try to avoid meeting with humans and large animals, are nevertheless predators whose main goal has always been to get food in far from “humane” ways.

Earlier on we already told that scientists want to learn how to independently produce artificial snake venom in laboratory conditions. You can read about exactly where it can come in handy in this article.