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Posted by BGF on October 13, 2002 at 18:58:46:

In Reply to: Thanks for the info BGF more... posted by Tecknovore on October 13, 2002 at 18:08:48:

The research over the last year has completely turned my view of colubrids up-side down. Rather than venomous ones being rare in the family tree, it seems that non-venomous ones are the ones that are rare in the family tree! This is not to say that they all are capable of a deadly or even significant bite, it just means that some sensible caution should be used, particularly when dealing with more obscure animals that haven't been chewing on people in the herp trade for the last couple decades. If you have a look at the lethal species and map them onto the colubrid tree, you'll see that they do not form one discrete cluster but rather are scattered liberally throughout. Thus, it would be sensible to treat near relatives as potentially deadly. The close association of Macropisthodon with Rhabdophis is a good example. We were far from impressed with the fang size and venom yield of Rhabdophis. This means that it doesn't have an unusually large yield or massive fangs. Macropisthodon has the same sized head (and thus should have similar yields) but much much bigger teeth. Another one that I would be a bit wary of (based off of anecdotal reports from keepers on the kill times with their captives during feeding) would be Thrasops. They lack the massive and truly scary teeth of the boomslangs but seem to have a reasonably toxic venom. I haven't been able to test it yet since the first one died in shipping and the second came in alive but was actually a black phase boomslang!!

Psammophis is another example of an animal that came in and blew us away. I fed one 1.2 meter P. mossambica seven live mice in a row. It killed each one in less than two minutes!!!!! It just chewed threee times and sat back and waited, as if it knew that it didn't have to wait long! I reckon that large species Psammophis (mossambica, sudanensis, etc.) would be capable of a very dangerous bite in humans. The venom will be tested later this week or next.

Here it is where it gets very cute, we have also been testing the various existing antivenoms against the snakes ..... and none touch the species we've tested so far. Zero effect. I have been quite significantly evenomated by colubrids before and its quite scary to be in the throes of systemic neurotoxicity and know that there is nothing that can be done but to ride it out. I reckon thats a more dangerous situation than being bitten by a large elapid but one for which a good antivenom is handy.

This makes it all very complicated when I'm asked which species should be regarded as dangerous and which aren't. Its very much a sliding scale. Hell, I have a hard enough time now defining what is venomous!

All the best
BGF



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