Evolutionary allometry and ecological correlates of fang length evolution in vipers

Matthew L. Holding, Vivian C. Trevine, Oleksandr Zinenko, Jason L. Strickland, Rhett M. Rautsaw, Andrew J. Mason, Michael P. Hogan, Christopher L. Parkinson, Felipe G. Grazziotin, Sharlene E. Santana, Mark A. Davis, Darin R. Rokyta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Traits for prey acquisition form the phenotypic interface of predator-prey interactions. In venomous predators, morphological variation in venom delivery apparatus like fangs and stingers may be optimized for dispatching prey. Here, we determine how a single dimension of venom injection systems evolves in response to variation in the size, climatic conditions and dietary ecology of viperid snakes. We measured fang length in more than 1900 museum specimens representing 199 viper species (55% of recognized species). We find both phylogenetic signal and within-clade variation in relative fang length across vipers suggesting both general taxonomic trends and potential adaptive divergence in fang length. We recover positive evolutionary allometry and little static allometry in fang length. Proportionally longer fangs have evolved in larger species, which may facilitate venom injection in more voluminous prey. Finally, we leverage climatic and diet data to assess the global correlates of fang length. We find that models of fang length evolution are improved through the inclusion of both temperature and diet, particularly the extent to which diets are mammal-heavy diets. These findings demonstrate how adaptive variation can emerge among components of complex prey capture systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20221132
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1982
StatePublished - Sep 14 2022


  • adaptation
  • allometry
  • fang
  • tooth
  • viper

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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