Sometimes a bite just isn't good enough. Turning your teeth on a predator won't always be sufficient warning to back off, so some species throw in a dash of venom to get the message across. But one group of snakes take their toxic warning a stage further. They don't wait until a threat is within fang reach; spitting cobras eject their venom, sometimes over several metres, aiming at their victim's face and eyes. To ensure that their venom hits the spot, spitters have evolved specialised fangs that eject the venom forward at high pressure, but Arie van der Meijden and Ignazio Avella from the Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources (CIBIO), Porto, Portugal, wondered whether the snakes’ alternative lifestyle may also have affected the venom itself. Previous research had suggested that the venom of spitters might be a specialised...

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