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For the study: Researchers encountered venomous snakes 40,000 times

For the study: Researchers encountered venomous snakes 40,000 times

One study examined the biting behavior of the jararaka snake. Biologist Miguel Alves Nunes stepped on the animals with foam-covered shoes.

A Brazilian biologist used an unusual method to research the biting behavior of venomous snakes. To do this, João Miguel Alves Nunes, of the Butantan Research Center in São Paulo, stepped on jararakas — the most common venomous snake species in southeastern Brazil — more than 40,000 times using a specially made protective shoe, according to a study published in the journal. “Scientific Reports”.

This snake is the cause of most snake bites in the region, and the total number of envenoming cases is about 20,000 per year, accounting for a large proportion of incidents in the country.

Alves Nunes said in an interview with Science magazine that snake behavior is a generally neglected area of ​​research, especially in Brazil. Most studies do not examine the factors that cause them to bite. “If you study malaria, you can study the virus that causes the disease, but if you don't study the mosquitoes that transmit it, you'll never solve the problem,” he said. “I tested 116 animals and stepped on each animal 30 times.” During a series of tests that lasted several days, he stepped on and next to snakes a total of 40,480 times.

“Unfortunately, I discovered that I am allergic to both antivenoms and snake venoms.”

Miguel Alves Noni


Animals were used individually at different times of the day over a longer period of time in an arena of approximately 2 m2. After a 15-minute habituation period, the biologist wearing safety boots randomly stood either directly next to the snake or gently on its head, waist, or tail. It felt 100 percent safe and none of the bites penetrated the foam-covered shoe. He was only bitten while simulated by a rattlesnake. “Unfortunately, I discovered that I am allergic to both antivenoms and snake venoms,” he said. That's why he had to go to the hospital for a long time.

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The smaller the snake, the more likely it is to bite

The smaller the jararaka snake, the more likely it is to bite, the study found. “Hinzo kommt, dass die Weibchen aggressiver sind and her zubeißen, for allem wenn sie jung sind and tagsüber.” rmten Körper die fleeing. In addition, the probability of a defensive bite is much higher if you touch the head of the snake than if you step on the middle of the body or tail.

The researchers hope that the results will lead to improved distribution of antivenom. They are often sent to large hospitals, where some patients have to travel far because they were bitten in places where there is no antivenom. “By combining our data with data from other studies on snake distribution, we can identify places where animals are more likely to be aggressive,” Alves Nunes explained. “For example, warmer locations with a higher proportion of female snakes should be a priority for antivenom distribution.”

116 spear snakes were deployed

A total of 116 jararaka pythons were used in the study between October and November 2021. In a 2,025 square meter arena with an aluminum sheet floor and Styrofoam walls, the snakes for each behavioral test were initially left in the arena for up to 15 minutes to habituate.

Safety shoes were used to gently step on the head, middle of the body and tail (ten times in each area), at random intervals of three seconds. He was also stepped on within two inches of the snake. Experiments were performed in the morning and at night. (APA/DPA)

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