Rattlesnake Myth?

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Herpetologist115
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Rattlesnake Myth?

Post by Herpetologist115 » February 17th, 2014, 11:43 am

Okay, I have been hearing this same thing for years and I bet all of you have too:

"Baby rattlesnakes inject more venom because they cannot control themselves."

I don't think this makes sense. Why would a snake with smaller venom glands inject more? Or am I misunderstanding something technical? Is there any truth to this. I want to put this one to rest.

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Joshua Jones
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Re: Rattlesnake Myth?

Post by Joshua Jones » February 17th, 2014, 12:02 pm

I always disagree with that statement for two reasons.

First, pitvipers are able to control their flow of venom from birth. Their venom might be a little stronger, and they might be less inclined to give a dry bite, but they can control their venom glands.

Second, adult pitvipers have a much higher venom yield than their juvenile counterparts. Even ignoring the differing views on dry bites, venom toxicity, what have you, the fact remains that an adult will have much more venom to give you if it so chooses.

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Bryan Hamilton
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Re: Rattlesnake Myth?

Post by Bryan Hamilton » February 17th, 2014, 12:06 pm

This stems from the myth that small rattlesnakes are more dangerous than adults. Like all good myths there is some basis in facts.

Some evidence suggests that the smaller snakes are less skilled than adults in controlling the amount of venom they inject. Adults can regulate the amount of venom they inject depending on a variety of factors and the young snakes are not as good at metering venom. So proportionately, small rattlesnakes inject more venom. But in terms of volume its still less than adults rattlesnakes.

The other part of this myth is that neonates have more toxic venom than adults. This is true for many rattlesnake species where the neonates feed on lizards and adults feed on mammals. Part of this ontogenetic shift in diet is accompanied by a change in venom composition and toxicity.

Laypeople have interpreted these facts to mean that small baby rattlesnakes are more dangerous than adults. Adults have so much more venom than babies, bigger heads, and longer fangs. If you get to choose, always choose a bite from a baby rattlesnake. The adults are far more dangerous. But remember rattlesnakes are only dangerous if they bite you. And they do not want to bite you.

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Noah M
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Re: Rattlesnake Myth?

Post by Noah M » February 17th, 2014, 8:13 pm

Do you want to be shot with 38 special or a colt 45? IMO, I would do my best to avoid both, so it becomes a moot point.

But interesting question, thanks for asking. I've kinda wondered this myself.

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Nature Nate
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Re: Rattlesnake Myth?

Post by Nature Nate » February 17th, 2014, 9:29 pm

Honestly I'd rather be shot with a handgun round than tagged. There are trauma centers in every hospital than poison treatment centers (yes the poison treatment ward treats envenimations). Also antivenin/crofab is much less effective at treating an envenomation than a doctor plugging a hole made by hot lead.

Quick answer to the question that I use during a Q&A after a presentation is:

neo crote:
-more toxic
-proportionately more venom used
-fewer dry bites

adult crote:
-slightly less toxic drop for drop
-MUCH more venom injected per non-dry bite (50 cal vs .22)
-more often than not it's a dry bite (with venom in the saliva that will produce swelling and intense pain but no permanent damage)

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M Wolverton
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Re: Rattlesnake Myth?

Post by M Wolverton » February 17th, 2014, 11:56 pm

Most of the historically really severe rattlesnake bite cases were from large adults. They do not have to be very large or old to have the capacity to kill though, depending on the species.

Prompt medical treatment has saved a lot of people's hides, sometimes it isn't enough.

hellihooks
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Re: Rattlesnake Myth?

Post by hellihooks » February 18th, 2014, 4:13 am

Along with everything else everyone has said, I believe an adult crote can inject up to 1/3 of it's stored venom, per bite. I've never been shot... but I can't imagine anything hurting as much as a rattler bite... they REALLY hurt. :? jim

Herpetologist115
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Re: Rattlesnake Myth?

Post by Herpetologist115 » February 18th, 2014, 8:36 pm

Speaking as someone who was bit by an adult rattlesnake, I would say that both are probably (haven't been bit by a baby and don't plan to) about the same intensity. For the same species at least. I always wondered and wanted to know the truth. Thanks for your answers.

Nate S.
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Re: Rattlesnake Myth?

Post by Nate S. » February 18th, 2014, 8:47 pm

I have talked with a couple herpetologists and several other knowledgeable people about this topic. All of them said that adult were far more dangerous, they have a much longer strike range, capable of injecting a TON more venom, longer fangs etc.

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M Wolverton
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Re: Rattlesnake Myth?

Post by M Wolverton » February 18th, 2014, 9:48 pm

Nature Nate wrote: -more often than not it's a dry bite
I think that'd be the other way around for both adults and juveniles.

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reptilist
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Re: Rattlesnake Myth?

Post by reptilist » February 19th, 2014, 4:13 am

I've observed a neonate atrox injecting far too little venom to kill a pinkie mouse. So I deduce that there is a bit of a learning curve.
I've also seen neonates scared out of their gourds and seem more than likely they are going to inject all they can muster.

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