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Venomous Snakes

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  1. Anatomy
    1. Pit vipers
    2. Coral snakes
  2. Venoms
    1. Pit viper venom
    2. Juvenile rattlesnakes
    3. Neurotoxicity
    4. Mojave toxin
  3. Conclusion
  4. References

The term pit viper comes from the presence of paired, highly sensitive, thermoreceptor organs (pits) present on the forward portion of these snakes' heads. These structures, also known as foveal organs, serve the snake in locating prey, aiming strikes, and adjusting venom dose. The foveal organs can detect temperature changes of as little as 0.003 C (0.0054 F). A neurologic feedback loop between the foveal organs and the venom delivery apparatus may allow the snake to adjust the volume of venom it injects into a potential meal or a perceived threat.

[...] Geographic differences occur in the venoms of other snakes as well. Canebrake rattlesnakes (C. horridus) from Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina possess more neurotoxic and myotoxic "canebrake toxin" than do specimens from Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Differences in concentration of this toxin correlate with variable clinical effects seen after bites by this species from different geographic regions. Neurotoxicity has been clinically associated with severe myotoxicity in many cases. Severe rhabdomyolysis and myoglobinuric renal failure have been reported after Mojave rattlesnake envenomation and are thought to be related to Mojave toxin. [...]


[...] Coral snakes are identified primarily by color pattern. U.S. coral snakes are banded in a red-yellow-black-yellow-red pattern, and the bands completely encircle the snake's body. The contiguity of the red and yellow bands distinguishes U.S. coral snakes from a number of harmless mimics (e.g., several king snakes and milk snakes, genus Lampropeltis), which generally have red and yellow bands separated by black bands. This can best be remembered by recalling the phrase "red on yellow, kill a fellow; red on black, venom lack" or by considering that the red and yellow lights on a traffic signal are the warning lights. [...]

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