Influences on venom yield in Australian tigersnakes (Notechis scutatus) and brownsnakes (Pseudonaja textilis: Elapidae, Serpentes)

P. J. Mirtschin, R. Shine*, T. J. Nias, N. L. Dunstan, B. J. Hough, M. Mirtschin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The rates at which venomous animals produce venoms are of obvious biological and medical importance, but factors influencing those rates remain poorly understood. We gathered data on venom yield (wet mass of venom) and percentage solids (dry mass of the venom divided by wet mass) for 53 eastern brownsnakes (Pseudonaja textilis) and 36 mainland tigersnakes (Notechis scutatus) over a 4-year period at Venom Supplies Pty. Ltd, a commercial venom production facility in South Australia. Tigersnakes yielded about threefold more venom (by wet mass) than brownsnakes, but with slightly lower percentage solids. Both species showed significant geographic variation in percentage solids. Venom yields varied as a function of the snake's sex and geographic origin, but these effects were secondary consequences of geographic and sex-based differences in body size. Relative head size affected venom yield in brownsnakes but not tigersnakes. Overall, the amount of venom that a snake produced during milking was affected by its species, its geographic origin, its body size and relative head size, and by the time of year that it was milked, as well as by interactions among these factors. Body size was the most important effect on venom yield, with yields increasing more rapidly with size in brownsnakes than in tigersnakes. Research at the intersection of snake ecology and venom characteristics has great potential, but will require a genuinely interdisciplinary approach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1581-1592
Number of pages12
JournalToxicon
Volume40
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2002
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Head size
  • Notechis scutatus
  • Percentage solids
  • Pseudonaja textilis
  • Snake size
  • Venom

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