Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

Now in our 9th year of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science every day

10 July 2016

A Quick Bite

A crossbow bolt is fired into a slab of ballistics jelly, but this is not a crime scene investigation – it’s a reconstruction of a snake attack. Many creatures deliver deadly toxins to their prey but, like a poison-tipped arrow, an effective bite or sting must first puncture the skin and plunge towards the bloodstream. This slow motion video reveals how flesh might buckle and resist during a puncturing attack. Using arrows of different weights and speeds, researchers found the most effective way to penetrate deep into tissue is ramping up the kinetic energy – meaning an increase in speed is more effective than a proportional increase in mass. This suggests quicker attacks may have evolved in smaller creatures, across species using teeth, claws or even tentacles to bring down their prey. The 'take home' warnings are clear: small bites can still be deadly, and some biologists now carry crossbows.

Written by John Ankers

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