RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Maintaining Coral Snakes (Micrurus nigrocinctus, Serpentes: Elapidae) for venom production on an alternative fish-based diet.

American Elapid snakes (Coral Snakes) comprise the genera Leptomicrurus, Micruroides and Micrurus, which form a vast taxonomic assembly of 330 species distributed from the South of United States to the southern region of South America. In order to obtain venom for animal immunizations aimed at antivenom production, Coral Snakes must be kept in captivity and submitted periodically to venom extraction procedures. Thus, to maintain a snake colony in good health for this purpose, a complete alternative diet utilizing an easily obtained prey animal is desirable. The development of a diet based on fish is compared to the wild diet based on colubrid snakes, and assessed in terms of gain in body weight rate (g/week), longevity (weeks), venom yield (mg/individual), venom median lethal dose (LD₅₀) and venom chromatographic profiles. The animals fed with the fish-based diet gained more weight, lived longer, and produced similar amount of venom whose biological and biochemical characteristics were similar to those of venom collected from specimens fed with the wild diet. This fish-based diet appears to be suitable (and preferable to the wild diet) to supply the nutritional requirements of a Micrurus nigrocinctus snake collection for the production of antivenom.

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