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Friday, June 21, 2024

He stepped on rattlesnakes over 40,000 times

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A scientist from Brazil conducted research on poisonous snakes by… repeatedly stepping on them. The goal was to see in which situations they were most likely to attack. Nothing happened to the snakes – unlike the researcher himself.

More than five million snake bites occur on humans each year. Encounters with venomous species often result in death or permanent body damage. Despite advances in developing serums, scientists are still not sure what exactly causes snakes to attack. Joao Miguel Alves-Nunes from the Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo wanted to know the answer to this question, and the results of his study were published in the scientific journal “Scientific Reports”.

Gender, size and heat

To determine what factors prompt snakes to attack, the scientist conducted tests with representatives of the common firecracker species (Bothrops jararaca) – large, aggressive snakes from the rattlesnake subfamily. They are considered one of the most dangerous reptiles in South America. The researcher, wearing protective footwear, walked around the snakes and sometimes gently pressed on their bodies so as not to damage the animals.

“I was getting close to the snakes and slightly stepping on them,” Alves-Nunes said. – In this way, I tested 116 animals and stepped on each of them 30 times, which gives a total of 40,480 steps.

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According to the study, the likelihood of a firecracker attack was linked to a number of factors. The smallest individuals turned out to be the most aggressive. Females bit more often than males – especially the younger ones. The animals were more aggressive on hot days and also when stepped on closer to the head.

Common firecracker (Bothrops jararaca) – photo. illustrativeDad Philip Sansonovski/Shutterstock

Serum allergy

The results turned out to be consistent with statistics from hospital registers – in Sao Paulo, most cases are recorded in summer, during contact with small females. The scientist expressed hope that the research would help reduce the number of snakebite victims.

– Thanks to our discoveries, we can predict where a bite may occur and better plan the distribution of anti-venom drugs, he said. – By overlaying this data on a snake distribution map, we can identify places where animals are more aggressive. For example, warmer places with larger female populations should be a priority for serum distribution, Alves-Nunes explained.

The researcher admitted that during his research he was once bitten by a snake – not by a snake, but by another less venomous rattlesnake. Alves-Nunes received the serum, but at the same time discovered that he was allergic to both the serum and snake toxins.

– I had to take sick leave for 15 days – he said. – The hardest thing is that after this accident, some people started to see me as reckless. And this is not true, because I conducted all the experiments based on solid scientific foundations, he added.

Main photo source: Dad Philip Sansonovski/Shutterstock

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