environmental

Venom Glands Similar to Those of Snakes Found for First Time in Amphibians

Brazilian researchers discover that caecilians, limbless amphibians resembling worms or snakes that emerged some 150 million years before the latter, can probably inject venom into their prey while biting.

A group led by researchers at Butantan Institute in Brazil and supported by FAPESP has described for the first time the presence of venom glands in the mouth of an amphibian. The legless animal is a caecilian and lives underground. It has tooth-related glands that, when compressed during biting, release a secretion into its prey – earthworms, insect larvae, small amphibians and snakes, and even rodent pups. A paper reporting the study is published in iScience.

“We were analyzing the mucus glands in the skin of the animal’s head, which it uses to burrow down into the soil, when we discovered these structures. They’re located at the base of the teeth and develop out of the dental lamina, the tissue that typically gives rise to teeth, as is the case with snakes’ venom glands,” said Pedro Luiz Mailho-Fontana, first author of the paper and a postdoctoral intern at Butantan Institute with a scholarship from FAPESP.

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