Nov 26, 2008

Viper fangs: functional limitations of extreme teeth

Physiological and Biochemical Zoology : PBZ
David Cundall


The fangs of vipers are extremely long, rotating, hollow teeth. Analysis of video records of more than 750 strikes recorded at 60 or 250 frames per second for 285 individuals representing 86 species in 31 genera shows that vipers reposition fangs after initial contact with prey in more than a third of the strikes. Repositioning resulted when fangs missed prey entirely or hit prey regions that did not permit adequate penetration. The prevalence of repositioning, even among species that normally release prey, suggests strong selective pressure for rapid neuromotor response to fang placement error. The rapidity of repositioning suggests the existence of (a) fine-scale sensory detection of fang penetration depth, (b) rapid modulation of contraction of antagonistic muscles, and (c) possibly neurological modifications to shorten transmission time between sensory input and motor output. Extreme fang length has apparently coevolved with extreme functions.

  • References14
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Mentioned in this Paper

Reposition-joint Movement
Contraction (Finding)
Video Recording
Tooth Structure
PYURF gene
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