Costs of venom production in the common death adder (Acanthophis antarcticus)

Pintor, Anna, Krockenberger, Andrew K., and Seymour, Jamie E. (2010) Costs of venom production in the common death adder (Acanthophis antarcticus). Toxicon, 56 (6). pp. 1035-1042.

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The utilization of venom in predatory and defensive contexts is associated with benefits regarding minimization of energetic expenditure on hunting, maximization of success in prey acquisition and avoidance of injury from dangerous prey and aggressors. Multiple characteristics suggest that venom is quite expensive to produce, thereby creating a tradeoff between advantages and disadvantages associated with its possession. The metabolic costs of venom production have rarely been studied and no information on the detailed metabolic processes during venom replenishment exists. Where costs of venom production have been studied they are often not in context with other components of the energy budget of the study organism. Using flow-through respirometry, we examined changes in metabolic rate in the Australian elapid Acanthophis antarcticus after venom expenditure and feeding as well as during preparation for shedding to establish a comparison of the magnitude of energetic expenditure during venom replenishment and other common physiological processes. We also defined the temporal pattern of metabolic processes during venom replenishment at a higher resolution than has previously been attempted in snakes. Our results suggest that total costs of venom replenishment are relatively small when compared to costs of digestion and shedding. We conclude that, in spite of the manifold factors suggesting a high cost of venom in snakes, its production is less energetically costly than often assumed. Until further research can clarify the reasons for this more caution should therefore be applied when assuming that costs of venom production exert strong selection pressures on the ecology, behavior and evolution of venomous taxa.

Item ID: 15136
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1879-3150
Keywords: venom cost, energetic expenditure, elapids, Acanthophis
Date Deposited: 21 Dec 2010 02:36
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0606 Physiology > 060601 Animal Physiology - Biophysics @ 70%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0608 Zoology > 060806 Animal Physiological Ecology @ 30%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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