WORK IN CURRENT HERPETOLOGY:
Some Seemingly Harmless Snakes Possess a Secret Venom Gland
by Rachel Nuwer
Usually, we think of snakes as falling into one of two groups—venomous and nonvenomous. But to the surprise of herpetologists, a new group has emerged, which seems to fall into a previously unknown grey area between venomous and not.
This discovery occurred after victims who received bites from “harmless” snakes—Thrasops flavigularis in Africa and green whip snakes in Europe—began showing suspect symptoms, including problems with neuromotor skills. Upon closer examination, herpetologists noticed that both of those culprit species possess something called the Duvernoy’s gland.
Researchers have long puzzled over what this gland’s purpose is; some think it’s used for helping the snakes swallow and digest food, while others believe it’s a primitive version of what scientists consider true venom glands. With these latest findings, however, herpetologists writing in the journal Toxin propose classifying it as a true venom gland…(read more: Smithsonian Magazine)photograph: Green Whip Snake (Hierophis viridiflavus), by Jean-Jacques Milan
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