Humans Could Evolve to Become Venomous in the Future, According to a Study
“You’re so toxic.” Possibly in a few couple of million years, that phrase would describe a person’s physical attributes rather than his personality.
A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) claims humans could evolve to become venomous in the future. Although highly unlikely, the researchers suggest certain environmental conditions could lead humans and mice to evolve venom, like snakes.
Scientists from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) and the Australian National University identified 3000 genes in a pit viper called habu snake, and found that these genes are also present in humans and mice.
Aside from helping produce venom, the genes in question are also responsible for protecting cells from stress and damage.
Human Salivary Glands Similar to Snake Venom Glands
One of the highlights of the research was the discovery that genes in humans’ salivary glands are very similar to the genes found in snakes’ venom glands. The scientists concluded the two could be on a similar track on the evolutionary path.
"Many scientists have intuitively believed this is true, but this is the first real solid evidence for the theory that venom glands evolved from early salivary glands,” writes Agneesh Barua, lead author of the study.
He added, "While snakes then went crazy, incorporating many different toxins into their venom and increasing the number of genes involved in producing venom, mammals like shrews produce simpler venom that has a high similarity to saliva."
"If under certain ecological conditions, mice that produce more toxic proteins in their saliva have better reproductive success, then in a few thousand years, we might encounter venomous mice." he added.