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Venom Diversity & Evolution in Reptiles and Amphibians - An education module for university students

Author(s): Andrew Mason1, Eric Gangloff2

1. The Ohio State University 2. Ohio Wesleyan University

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Summary:
This module contains information for a three part series introducing the venom system in reptiles and discussing it in an evolutionary context. In the first part venom and its ecological roles are defined with a discussion of the diversity of venom…

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This module contains information for a three part series introducing the venom system in reptiles and discussing it in an evolutionary context. In the first part venom and its ecological roles are defined with a discussion of the diversity of venom structures and venomous lineages, primarily in squamates. Examples are provided of the various ways that venoms may vary among biological scales. In parts 2 and 3, the evolution of venom is discussed. Part 2 focuses on a description of how the venom system arose in squamates and a discussion of the challenges associated with defining "venomousness". Part 3 examines the various genetic mechanisms that produce venom variation using examples from primarily literature that are presented in Part 1. In addition to lecture materials, we include a primary literature based activity and a group activity designed to encourage students to explore the diversity of venomous taxa in reptiles and amphibians.

Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International according to these terms

Version 1.0 - published on 24 Sep 2022 doi:10.25334/G2H2-0655 - cite this

Description

This unit includes these resources

  • How to read a research paper for the big ideas (document)

  • Venom Primary Literature Assignment (out of class assignment)

  • Class Programs (guides for completing work outside of class)

  • Venomous Heroes & Villains Assignment (small group project) + Grading rubric

  • Three lectures on venom diversity and evolution.

  • Assessment Questions

 

Venom Unit Learning Outcomes

Students will understand the significance of venom as an adaptive trait in reptiles

  • Students will understand how complex adaptive traits like venom evolve across biological scales and be able to evaluate evolutionary hypotheses for how complex traits emerge.

  • You will understand what venom is and how it is differentiated from other natural toxins.

  • You will understand the function of venom in the life histories of venomous reptiles.

  • You will understand how snake diets evolve in response to dietary pressures.

  • You will understand the genetic mechanisms that mediate venom evolution.

 

Students will understand the diversity of reptile and amphibian groups that utilize venom

  • You will understand the major clades of venomous snakes and lizards.

  • You will identify key characteristics that differentiate these groups and the differences in venom delivery systems.

  • You will identify homologous structures underlying convergent evolution of venoms.

  • You will understand characteristics associated with the early divergence of the reptile venom system.

  • You will interpret and evaluate evidence and arguments for defining reptile lineages as venomous.

 

Students will be able to critically evaluate the primary literature in the field of herpetology and related fields

 

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