How do fang characteristics of coral snakes and crotalids determine venom delivery?

Updated: Apr 09, 2021
  • Author: Spencer Greene, MD, MS, FACEP, FACMT, FAAEM; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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Answer

Crotalid venom is produced and stored in paired glands below the eyes. Crotalids have hollow, mobile, relatively long fangs located in the front of the upper jaw and are capable of delivering venom quite efficiently. Less than 10% of crotalid bites are “dry”, meaning there is no venom deposition. A number of factors determine how much venom is delivered, including the species, age, size, and overall health of the snake, as well as its diet and the last time it had fed or released venom.

Coral snakes have shorter, fixed, front fangs and a smaller mouth, which make them deliver venom less efficiently. In the wild, snakes often hang onto their prey until the venom takes effect. However, despite the persistent myth, coral snakes do not need to "chew" in order to envenomate. It is estimated that 30% or more of coral snake bites are dry.


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