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Science News: Lizard Venom

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Lizards have been with me for my life except for the long years when I lived in New York state. They may have lived in the sewers of the city but that has always seemed wishful fiction.

Growing up in Florida little lizards made a mess of the house and drove housewives to distraction. Neat freaks hate the discovery of sub-tropical lizard droppings behind and under everything as we in New York and New England hated the discovery of little mouse gifts where least wanted. I hate mice and rats almost as much as I hated the sick or dying bat that landed next to me on the terrace this afternoon. My brave and husky housekeeper came out with her broom and put it out of its misery while I invented most important intellectual works inside.

The big lizards, like my friend here:

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are a reptile of a different color the Wizard of Oz would have said had they had lizard problems in Oz. As a boy in Tampa one lived in the city park where we went for Sunday band concerts. I threw peanuts at his partly submerged head in his muddy little pond.
On the Silver Meteor — Amtrak version — I saw one sunning himself in the Savanna River as we crossed the trestle. Once labeled a protected species they have made a big comeback in Florida. Too big, perhaps, since Miami often now has scaled visitors in its waterways sometimes eating local pets — an alligator delicacy.

This fellow lived in San Luis Potosì, Mexico inland from Tampico. Most of his relatives are long gone as they were considered delicacies — at least their tails — by the local people. He lived in a small, cold pond near the large, thermal one where we swam in its “magic” waters at the Hotel Taninul in Ciudad Valles. He seemed content to live with the turtles and gorge himself on the leftovers from the hotel kitchen.

Then we returned one year and he was gone. I have always wondered if someone walked over the old, rusting wire fence to put him in the stew pot or if he wandered out to taste a tasty pet or child. No one at the hotel would admit to either.

Lizards seem alien but I was always told the little ones were harmless albeit annoying and big, cute ones like the Kimodo Dragon even got a starring role in The Freshman as the endangered animal smuggled into the U.S.

Here in Mexico the little ones and the larger iguanas would happily take over the world. Outside I love them since they eat the insects such as the mosquitos that bring dengue fever and malaria.

Therefore I was fascinated by a recent study as reported by Wendel Broere on Yahoo in an article on Lizard Venom.

A Reuters report from Leiden, Netherlands showed that more lizard families secrete venom in their bites than was originally thought. Some are considered “popular pets”. The symptoms of lizard bites like pain and swelling were thought to be bacterial infections caused by the debris of their past meals caught between sharp teeth. Dr. Bryan Fry’s study from Melbourne has been published in Nature. His team isolated a venom, croatamine; which is a typical rattlesnake venom in the bite of the eastern bearded dragon which is described as a “popular pet”. The Kimodo Dragon of Indonesia is the largest in the world (at 350 pounds maximum) is also venomous. The article and the study do not investigate who it is who find these monsters “popular pets”.

Then comes the good part.

“There are so many more reptiles with venom now than we previously thought. That fact itself has massive implications for a vast array of areas, whether it be evolution, drug design and development or ecology,” Fry said.

Snake toxins are already widely used in medicines to treat epilepsy, haemophilia and thrombosis. The new lizard venom toxins and their molecules present a huge unexplored resource for drug design and development, according to the researchers.

“Milking the big monitors was quite simple, just gently squeezing the glands would result in 40-50 milligrams (dry weight) of liquid venom pooling at the base of the teeth,”

They also point out that even the big lizards do not produce enough venom to endanger humans.

My old friend above, however, doesn’t rely on venom; just strong jaws and sharp teeth. They, too , live near us but, like sharks; it is the two-legged variety that are the most dangerous.

If, after this, you want a chameleon for pet; check out the Chameleon Information Network for housing, feeding and care at CiN.

For more on the giant Kimodo Dragon try Giant Lizards.

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Reading on our friends, the Geckos: try Auroville.

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About hfdratch

  • http://darkeroticism.blogspot.com swingingpuss

    Interesting post, I hate lizards more than roaches. A lizard once fell on my aunt’s face and left a nice print of its little body curving from my aunt’s right eye, down her chin right uptill her left cheek.

    The poor lady’s face had been swollen for over two weeks and the marks took a month to go.

    Since then I have made it a point to kill any domestic lizards I might find on the walls of my home.