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EarthSky // Earth, Human World, Science Wire Release Date: Dec 09, 2013

How did snake venom evolve?

A new study looked a snake venom in order to learn how it evolved into the sophisticated and deadly cocktail of proteins it is today.

South Indian King Cobra via Wikimedia Commons

South Indian King Cobra via Wikimedia Commons

Researchers studying snake venom – with the goal of producing an anti-venom – say that snakes’ venom glands have co-opted many proteins that originally played more mundane roles elsewhere in their bodies. They studied snake venom via sequenced genomes of the deadly venomous King Cobra and the non-venomous Burmese Python, and compared the two to shed light on how each evolved. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published their work in December 2013.

These researchers – at Bangor University, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the universities of Leiden in Holland and Texas, Arlington – say their work provides “the first comprehensive insight into how snake venom evolved into the sophisticated cocktail of different proteins it is today.”

Snakebite is a major killer in many tropical nations tropical nations, causing thousands of deaths each year. Researchers hope their studies of snake venom will ultimately lead to an anti-venom that could save lives.

Click here to read more about the new study on snake venom, from Planet Earth Online.