How do morphological sharpness measures relate to puncture performance in viperid snake fangs?

S. B. Crofts, Y. Lai, Y. Hu, P. S.L. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


It makes intuitive sense that you need a sharp tool to puncture through a tough material. The typical approach to evaluating sharpness in biological puncturing tools is to treat morphological measurements as a proxy for puncture ability. However, there are multiple approaches to measuring sharpness, and the relative influence of morphology on function remains unclear. Our goal is to determine what aspects of tip morphology have the greatest impact on puncture ability, using (a) viper fangs and (b) engineered punches to isolate the effects of different sharpness measures. Our results indicate that tip included angle is the strongest predictor of puncture performance in both viper fangs and engineered punches. For puncture tools with small included angles, sharpness index (based on the radius of curvature) also affects puncture ability. Finally, we found that punches serve as good predictors of fang performance at small angles and sharpness index values.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20180905
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019



  • Dentition
  • Feeding
  • Puncture
  • Sharpness
  • Viperidae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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