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Toxicon. 2011 Jan;57(1):68-75. doi: 10.1016/j.toxicon.2010.10.001. Epub 2010 Oct 15.

Venom physiology and composition in a litter of Common Death Adders (Acanthophis antarcticus) and their parents.

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  • 1School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, PO Box 6811, Cairns QLD 4870, Australia.


Metabolic expenditure has been shown to increase abruptly in several snake species directly after venom expenditure, while the later stages of venom replenishment seem to involve minor costs. This study examines the dependence of increases in metabolic rate following venom expenditure on the stage of venom replenishment that the venom producing tissue is in at the time of venom extraction in the Common Death Adder, Acanthophis antarcticus. Potential changes in venom composition during venom replenishment are also explored to elucidate whether replenishment is achieved via low rates of synthesis of all venom components or by non-parallel protein production, i.e. initial production of some venom components and subsequent synthesis of others. The results of this study indicate that venom expenditure is followed by a sudden increase in metabolic rate when snakes have previously not expended venom for at least two days, suggesting that repetitive venom expenditure does not further increase the activity of venom gland tissue in this initial time period but that a second upregulation occurs when the tissue is past the initial activation stage. In addition, venom composition appears to remain constant during replenishment within an individual, while substantial variations can be observed even between siblings.

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