When designing experimental studies, it is important to understand the biological context of the question being asked. For example, many biological puncture experiments embed the puncture tool to a standardized depth based on a percentage of the total tool length, to compare the performance between tools. However, this may not always be biologically relevant to the question being asked. To understand how definitions of penetration depth may influence comparative results, we performed puncture experiments on a series of venomous snake fangs using the venom pore location as a functionally relevant depth standard. After exploring variation in pore placement across snake phylogeny, we compared the work expended during puncture experiments across a set of snake fangs using various depth standards: puncture initiation, penetration to a series of depths defined by the venom pore and penetration to 15% of fang length. Contrary to our hypothesis, we found almost no pattern in pore placement between clades, dietary groups or venom toxicity. Rank correlation statistics of our experimental energetics results showed no difference in the broad comparison of fangs when different puncture depth standards were used. However, pairwise comparisons between fangs showed major shifts in significance patterns between the different depth standards used. These results imply that the interpretation of experimental puncture data will heavily depend upon which depth standard is used during the experiments. Our results illustrate the importance of understanding the biological context of the question being addressed when designing comparative experiments.

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