Although the front-fanged venom delivery system of the Elapidae is believed to be derived from an aglyphous or opisthoglyphous colubroid ancestor, opinion is divided as to the end of the maxilla on which the proteroglyph fang originated. This study was undertaken to determine whether the evolutionary precursor of the proteroglyph fang was (a) a grooved posterior fang which migrated anteriorly, or (b) an enlarged anterior tooth which secondarily developed a groove for the conduction of venom. The surface morphology of the maxillary teeth of colubrid genera was examined using scanning electron microscopy. Ridges present on the lingual and labial surfaces of anterior maxillary teeth and on the anterior and posterior surfaces of posterior maxillary teeth were identified as morphological markers of potential value in distinguishing the anterior and posterior maxillary teeth of colubrid snakes, and in determining the origin of the proteroglyph fang. Patterns of ridges on the surfaces of elapid fangs examined were found to be consistent with the hypothesis that the evolutionary precursor of the proteroglyph fang was an opisthoglyph fang which migrated anteriorly.
Additional publication details
Evidence from tooth surface morphology for a posterior maxillary origin of the proteroglyph gang