In this week’s Science Café Jeremy Grange visits Bangor University’s School of Biological Sciences where they’re investigating the origins and evolution of venom.
Dr. Anita Malhotra explains how venom works. Some snakes have venoms which affect the nervous system and cause paralysis, while others attack tissues and cause internal bleeding. Even within the same species, snakes in different regions can have different venoms and Anita is investigating the genetic and environmental triggers for this. Jeremy meets Dr. Wolfgang Wuster who also investigates this variation in venoms. He travels the world catching venomous snakes and collecting venom samples for analysis.
Ph.D student Adam Hargreaves and his supervisor Dr. John Mulley and are studying the evolutionary processes underlying the origins of snake venom. They explain how the genes coding for venoms may be found in other body cells but they’ve been duplicated and concentrated in the venom glands as snakes have evolved their own very effective way of catching and killing prey.
In the reptile room Jeremy encounters a few of Bangor University’s venomous snakes, including the Mojave rattlesnake from North America and a puff adder, the viper that causes the largest number of snakebite deaths in Africa.