Venom yield and its relationship with body size and fang separation of pit vipers from Argentina

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Abstract

The amount of venom that a snake can inject is related to its body size. The body size is related to head size and to the distance between fangs. To correlate snake body size, distance between fangs and distance between puncture wounds with the venom yield (and consequently with the venom dose potentially injected in a single snakebite), we studied these variables in two species of public health importance in South America, Bothrops (Rhinocerophis) alternatus, and Crotalus durissus terrificus. In all cases a positive correlation was observed between body length, fang separation distance, distance between puncture wounds and venom yield, with a regression coefficient over 0.5 for Bothrops alternatus and over 0.6 for Crotalus durissus terrificus in all cases, being the relation distance between punctures wounds and venom yield of 0.54 and 0.69 respectively. The difference between fang separation and puncture separation was never greater than 30%, with a mean difference around 13%. The strong relationships between body size, fang separation and venom yield may be useful for planning potential venom production in serpentariums. In addition, because puncture mark separation gives an approximate idea of the size of the snake, this provides a rough idea of the size of the snake that produced a bite and the potential amount of venom that could have been injected.

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