Academic journal article Science Scope

Snake Fangs

Academic journal article Science Scope

Snake Fangs

Article excerpt

A rare examination of snake embryos suggests that an ancient change in the development of the upper jaw in some snakes may have paved the way for the evolution of fangs and associated venom glands. The findings, published in Nature, offer new clues to the origin of an extraordinary adaptation that allowed snakes to flourish in nearly every corner of the globe.

The work by a team of scientists, including Dr. Ram Reshef of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, reveals that fanged snakes have two distinct embryonic developmental centers that form the tissue of their upper jaw teeth. Snakes without fangs have only one developmental center that runs the full length of the upper jaw.

Reshef said the Nature paper has implications for biologists beyond the history of snakes. "The whole thing is about understanding the big question of evolution and development, the way in which genes underlying developmental changes can cause changes in form and function," he noted.

The two developmental centers in fanged snakes--one toward the front of the jaw and one toward the back--may have allowed the back teeth to evolve in tandem with a venom gland, the researchers say. …

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