The beautiful blue coral snake found in South East Asia has the ability to physiologically torment its victim, before putting it out of misery – by devouring the prey itself. The special venom that it produces has the ability to paralyze the victim, making it deadly and evidently life-risking if you ever find yourself coming across this particular animal – even though it mostly preys on other swift-moving venomous snakes.
The blue coral snake, with prominent neon red head and tail, and electric blue lines that run along the length of its body has been studied by researchers from the University of Queensland and several other institutions, who focused on the unique nature of this particular venom, and its effects. This study has been published in the Toxins science journal, and describes how it deploys a massive shock to the victim’s physiological system.
The venom renders the victim in a catatonic state after being bit, while the muscles are stuck in full flex – and then all the nerves are attacked at the same time, triggering a full body spasm. This helps the predator, even though it is painfully agonizing in the receiving end, because its preys are also highly poisonous and fast snakes which are exceptionally dangerous.
It could now be said that evolution has equipped this species with the deadliest tool in the arsenal for survival; the poison is actually stored in one of the glands that extends for one fourth of the reptile’s entire length. This peculiar toxin however, has never been seen in any other species of snakes, though been spotted in certain spiders and scorpions, who developed something similar. A prime example could be the cone snail, which injects a similar kind of toxin into fish’s body, effectively sending it into a paralytic state, where they get a tetanus-like muscular spasm.
Scientists say that this instance is a very good example for convergent evolution, as these traits have been observed in other species independently. When it enters the body, the venom activates all the nerves to switch on simultaneously in the victim’s body, causing the victim to enter into a paralytic stage, called spastic paralysis. This is different than the flaccid paralysis that is caused by other snakes. This happens because the chemical compounds in the toxin doesn’t let the nerves turn off the sodium channel – the sensation is almost analogous to pushing its accelerator to the floor and then, cutting off its brakes.
In a massive twist of irony though, the toxin, known as Calliotoxin, is being researched about by scientists in its ability to act as painkillers in human beings – and seriously considered about its viability in pharmacology.
Image Source: News.com.au