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Sunday, September 24, 2017, 

S/African Dog-like animals first produced venoms 260m yrs before snakes

S/African Dog-like animals first produced venoms 260m yrs before snakes

Johannesburg, 14 February 2017 (MIA) - The first animals known to have produced venom were not snakes, but dog-like pre-mammalian reptiles which used venom for hunting or defence, a South African university said Monday.

Only two fossils exist of the Euchambersia, a reptile that had canine teeth and grew between 40 and 50 centimetres long, which lived in South Africa’s south-eastern Karoo region 260 million years ago, some 100 million years before the evolution of the first snakes.

Scientists from Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand, in association with the Natural History Museum of London, used scanning and imagery techniques to analyse the two skulls. They found anatomical features compatible with venom production.

“[The] Euchambersia developed a deep and circular fossa, just behind its canine teeth in the upper jaw, in which a deadly venomous cocktail was produced, and delivered directly into the mouth through a fine network of bony grooves and canals,” the university said in a statement.

“This is the first evidence of the oldest venomous vertebrate ever found,” said Julien Benoit from Witwatersrand.

“More and more venom-producing mammals are discovered every year, including shrews and primates,” the university said. sk/12:44

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