Beyond Blood: Why Not Snake Venom Flow?

Transonic might be known for blood flow measurements, but blood isn’t the only fluid flowing in the body, especially if that body is a rattlesnake. When rattlesnakes bite, they can control whether or not to release any venom. The question then comes, how much control do Rattlesnakes have over their venom release, and how and when does that venom flow during a strike?

Dr. Bruce Young of Lafayette College explored those questions in “Venom flow in rattlesnakes: mechanics and metering” published in The Journal of Experimental Biology, 2001.

Transonic Perivascular Flowprobes were chronically implanted on the right venom duct of four diamondback rattlesnakes to measure to flow during defensive and predatory strikes. Venom flow measurements during strikes were synced with high-speed video recording to determine how the flow of venom compared to the timing and duration of the strike penetration. A total of sixty strikes were measured providing new insights into the mechanics of snake venom flow:

  • There is a period of retrograde (reverse) flow at the end of venom injection.
  • Duration of venom flow is significantly less than the duration of penetration.
  • Defensive strikes resulted in more total venom released at a much faster flow rate than predatory strikes.
  • When only one fang strikes, venom will flow through the venom duct of the opposite fang but not exit the orifice.

With the help of Transonic technology and a creative perspective on what it means to measure flow, it is possible to tackle many novel questions. Dr. Young was able to measure venom flow through the ducts of rattlesnakes when they strike, what could you measure?

Reference:

Young BA, Zahn K. “Venom flow in rattlesnakes: mechanics and metering” J Exp Biol. 2001Dec; 204 (pt 24): 4343-51.