Are snakes susceptible to their own venoms?

19 April 2009

Coastal Taipan

Coastal Taipan snake

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Question

Are snakes susceptible to their own venoms?

Answer

Helen - That's a great question. There are two things to consider. That is, they aren't susceptible to their own venom in their own fangs, because they don't kill themselves every time they make some venom.

That's pretty cool but also quite easy to understand. We also have poisonous chemicals inside our bodies that don't kill us. They're kept in certain areas, for example, our pancreas contains a deadly cocktail of enzymes. If your pancreas bursts and they all come out then that can really spell a big problem for you and you start digesting yourself from the inside. But because these enzymes are kept in certain organs that are lined with cells that aren't susceptible to those enzymes, then you're okay. And once it goes into your digestive tract then you're okay, because the tissue there has protection to help it to cope with it.

This is also why if a snake happens to swallow some of its own venom it will be okay, because the venom is made of protein. So the venom will break down when it gets into the digestive juices in the stomach.

The other question is what if a snake accidentally bit itself or if another snake bit it? The answer seems to be yes, they are susceptible to their own venom. If it's injected into their system they can be susceptible to it, but some scientists have also found anti-venom inside snakes. They can develop their own anti-venoms (antibodies) to their own venom, but we don't quite yet know how that happens. It could be that they have a low level of exposure. Accidentally biting themselves occasionally, as you do?

You can imagine there's some selective pressure for a snake to evolve, maybe not from itself, but perhaps from its mate or something.

Chris - A good corollary is spiders, isn't it? We know that spiders are vulnerable to their own toxins. A female can bite the male and kill the male with their venom. I suppose the same could be true for snakes because these venoms are proteins that have been injected into the body...

Comments

australia is over run with rabbits because we killed its natural predators, kill all the snakes and get over run by rats, the snakes natural food, yep even rabbits can be really destructive nature needs a balance remove it and cause chaos

Hey!! If the if the venom get digested and breakdown into amino acid in stomach of snake and do not harms them so why not in the case of humans ??

Snake venom is a cocktail of proteins; these will be degraded by the digestive juices and so cannot access the targets that they would if "injected" through the skin by the animal's fangs.

 

Dangerous animals like snakes, crocodiles, lions, tigers, leopards should be eliminated

Our destructive potential is legendary. We're currently not the only species on the planet that matters; but if we carry on the way we are, pretty soon we will be the only species on the planet full stop...

Yeah let’s destroy the entire eco system because you think they are dangerous, humans are the most dangerous species alive and we are the only species that if we were to disappear, it would be GOOD for the planet instead of bad, as it would be if you killed all those creatures, who by the way some of which were here before us

Thank-you you have given valuable knowledge

I own several venomous snakes and my banded snouted cobra bit itself while i was pining it down to remove a piece of old shed. The cobra started to show signs of envenomation shortly thereafter. I kept monitoring her thru out the next 24 hours and the next morning went to her enclosure to open it and found her dead. I thought they would be immune but there not. This goes to show just how deadly these animals are. I learn something new everyday about them

Your nuts lol

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