Venomous Mammal Fossil

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Venomous mammal fossil reported in Nature, vol. 435, p1091, 23 June and Science News 25 June 2005. Palaeontologists Richard Fox and Craig Scott have found fossilised teeth of an extinct mouse-size creature named Bisonalveus browni. The teeth have a groove running down one side, similar in shape to that on the fangs of venomous snakes. Venomous snakes have glands at the base of their teeth. When the snake bites down on its prey venom is squeezed from the gland and runs down the groove. Venomous mammals are very rare. The only living mammals that inject venom via grooves in their teeth are Solenodons – rat-sized animals that live in Haiti and Cuba. The short tailed shrew of North America has poisonous saliva but does not have a groove in its teeth. According to Science News, “the dearth of venomous mammals has posed an enigma for evolutionary biologists.”

Editorial Comment: As this animal is extinct there is no way of knowing whether it really had venom or what it ate. Venomous animals, especially snakes, are often used by sceptics to challenge Genesis, which states that all animals, including snakes and mammals originally ate plants in a good world. Venomous snakes seem so well designed to kill other animals they argue. However, many snake venoms are similar to digestive enzymes – proteins used to help break down food. As snakes swallow their food whole, without chewing it, having a system that injects digestive enzymes into the food helps the snake break down and absorb its food more quickly. When the world degenerated after the Fall of Man and Noah’s flood, snakes started eating other animals. Now the enzymes in their saliva not only helped digest their prey, but helped kill it as well. Some snake venom does contain chemicals that paralyse prey by damaging nerves, rather than digestive enzymes, so Creation Research predicts that research on these nerve toxins will find they had/have some other function as well. (Ref. venom, predators, digestion)

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