According to a new study, humans may have the potential to become venomous.
Scientists from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) and the Australian National University have found a connection between salivary glands in mammals and venom glands in snakes.
The study, which was published in the PNAS journal, states that while it is unlikely, it is possible that given the right environmental conditions, humans can become venomous.
As part of the study, scientists searched for genes that interact with the venom genes.
They used the venom glands from the Taiwan habu snake and identified around 3,000 of these genes.
The researchers discovered that these “connecting” genes were vital in protecting the cells from stress due to the production of a high number of proteins.
Similar genes were also found in certain mammals, such as chimpanzees, humans, and dogs.
Researchers then realized that the genes within samples of salivary gland tissue of mammals behave in a similar way to those found in the snake venom glands.
This suggests that there may be a functional link between the two.
Lead author of the study, Agneesh Barua, said, “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. 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.”
He also said that experiments in the 1980s found that male mice produced “compounds in their saliva that are highly toxic when injected into rats.”
“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.
In terms of how humans are changing, another recent study showed that less people are being born with wisdom teeth. The results of the research, published in the Journal of Anatomy, showed that the human race is evolving faster than it has at any other point in the past 250 years.