Unlocking the Origins of Snake Venom | The Institute for Creation Research

Unlocking the Origins of Snake Venom

The origin of snake venom has been a long-time mystery to both creationists and evolutionists. Interestingly, new research confirms that the same genes that encode snake venom proteins are active in many other tissues.1

According to the biblical record, God’s creation was originally void of death, disease, and violence. Because of Adam and Eve’s rebellion, the whole of creation became subject to a curse that resulted in snakes with venom, stinging arthropods, and countless diseases. One of the chief questions facing creation biologists and geneticists is how venom was manifested in the genomes and cellular biology of creatures. A new scientific model that explains this paradox is gaining credibility thanks to a variety of studies in different types of organisms.2,3 In this model, genes and their regulatory sequences have either been corrupted and/or lost through genome degradation to bring about scenarios in nature that seem to defy the original harmonious purpose of God’s creation.

In a published study earlier this year, scientists took a fresh approach and looked for explanations of snake-venom origins outside the standard evolutionary paradigm. According to evolutionary ideas, it was believed that new venom genes were produced by the duplication of other standard body genes.3,4 In their work, the researchers analyzed gene expression in venom glands and other body tissues in a wide variety of venomous and non-venomous snakes, and even the gecko.

In stark contrast to the typical evolutionary story, the researchers stated, “We find the hypothesis that snake venom evolves through the duplication of physiological or body genes and subsequent recruitment into the venom gland to be unsupported by the available data,” and, “Indeed for a large number of the gene families claimed to have undergone recruitment we find evidence of a diverse tissue expression pattern, including the salivary gland of nonvenomous reptiles.” The significance of this finding indicates that venom genes are not the products of alleged evolutionary processes, but are important DNA sequences that also serve other purposes in a variety of reptile tissues.

In this new study, researchers used a comprehensive set of 24 reptilian venom gene families and compared them to the non-venomous Burmese python genome along with the gene expression datasets from 12 different python tissues.1 This research confirmed the emerging paradigm revealed by the previous study that the genes that encode venom proteins are actually expressed in many different bodily tissues, and are not specific to venom glands. The difference regarding venom glands is that the genes that encode venom proteins are typically expressed in much greater quantities. This explains the dosage-dependent toxic properties in venom, which is used to immobilize and kill prey. What the physiological purpose of these proteins produced at lower concentrations in other bodily tissues is still largely unknown because it has not been investigated.

Interestingly, the study prior to this also showed that the elevated expression of venom genes was likely due to the genetic corruption of regulatory DNA sequences that act like switches, which ultimately regulate the levels of venom proteins in specific tissues.3,4 Creation scientists would predict this type of scenario resulting from the corruption of genetic information.

These two studies demonstrate that venom genes are likely serving other non-venomous purposes in reptile tissues, and the toxic levels of venom proteins found in modern venomous snakes is probably due to an alteration of regulatory sites in the DNA, causing them to be highly expressed in venom glands (as described in the first publication). This type of genetic model is predicted by creationists who understand the concept that genomes have undergone a process of information corruption, not vertical evolutionary improvement, a process initiated when the creation became cursed.

References

  1. Reyes-Velasco, J. et al. 2014. Expression of venom gene homologs in diverse python tissues suggests a new model for the evolution of snake venom. Molecular Biology and Evolution. MBE Advance Access. Published Nov 4, 2014.
  2. Tomkins, J. 2014. Fungal Parasitism Marked by Gene Loss, Not Gain. Creation Science Update. Posted on icr.org September 5, 2014, accessed Dec 9, 2014.
  3. Tomkins, J. Decoding Snake-Venom Origins. Creation Science Update. Posted on icr.org September 3, 2014, accessed Dec 9, 2014.
  4. Hargreaves, A.D. et al. 2014. Restriction and recruitment - gene duplication and the origin and evolution of snake venom toxins. Genome Biology and Evolution. 6 (8): 2088-2095.

*Dr. Tomkins is Research Associate at the Institute for Creation Research and received his Ph.D. in genetics from Clemson University.

Article posted on December 15, 2014.

The Latest
NEWS
Florida Fossil Shows Porcupines Have Always Been Porcupines
The porcupine is an animal (rodent) that one does not soon forget. It is armed with formidable quills that deter even the hungriest predators. What...

NEWS
Webb Telescope Discovers Another Record-Breaking Galaxy
Astronomers using the James Webb Space Telescope have recently confirmed that two galaxies are extremely distant, with one becoming the new record holder...

CREATION PODCAST
The Power of Film & Video: Reaching All Ages with Truth | The...
Is there a place for the use of film and video within Christianity? If so, how can we leverage this powerful tool to reach viewers of all ages...

NEWS
Scaly Skin on a Feathered Dinosaur?
Fossil experts from University College Cork in Ireland took stunning images of Psittacosaurus skin. The dinosaurs’ belly shows patches of skin...

NEWS
T. rex Not as Smart as Thought
Have movies and most conventional paleontologists got it all wrong? T. rex and other theropod dinosaurs (the meat-eaters) are often portrayed as intelligent...

NEWS
June 2024 ICR Wallpaper
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." (Ephesians 2:8 NKJV) ICR June...

NEWS
A “Just-so” Story About Ancient Genes
An evolutionary website recently published “a groundbreaking study” that supposedly identifies a basic, uncomplicated, “simple”...

CREATION PODCAST
Dinosaurs with Bird Brains??? | The Creation Podcast: Episode...
Evolutionists claim that birds are descended from dinosaurs. A feature that is often cited as linking these two types of creatures is the brain....

CREATION.LIVE PODCAST
From Ruins to Revelation: Truths Revealed Through Biblical Archaeology...
The Bible is full of people and places that are seemingly lost to time, but through the field of archaeology, new finds are shedding light on the incredible...

NEWS
Bergmann’s Rule Falsely Refuted
A recent study of dinosaur sizes claims to break Bergmann’s rule.1 Bergmann’s rule was named after biologist Carl Bergmann, who...