Bryan Fry

Venom Evolution Laboratory, School of Biological Sciences, Australia

Bryan Fry has a PhD in Biochemistry and is a Professor in Toxicology at the University of Queensland. His research focuses on how natural and unnatural toxins affect human health and the natural world, and what can be done to stop or reverse these effects. He is the author of two books and over 130 scientific papers. He has lead scientific expeditions to over 40 countries, including Antarctica, and has been inducted into the elite adventurer society The Explorers Club. He lives in Brisbane with his wife Kristina and two dogs Salt and Pepper.

Venom Evolution Lab, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia QLD, 4072 Australia

Snake venoms that affect the blood either do it in an anticoagulant manner, leading to hemorrhagic shock, or in a procoagulant manner, leading to stroke or consumptive coagulopathy. Within each of these two mutually exclusive methods, a myriad of novel strategies have evolved. These include enzymes repurposed for new activities, such as destruction of fibrinogen, or normal blood clotting enzymes recruited for use in the venom, such as the activated form of Factor X, leading to a massive ‘overdose’ scenario. In addition, blood enzymes such as thrombin may be inhibited by non-enzymatic toxins. The evolutionary pressures leading to these diverse venoms are equally diverse but patterns do emerge. The ability to rapidly immobilise a prey animal through stroke has convergently evolved in species which specialise on warm-blooded prey such as birds and mammals. The fast moving blood within these prey make them particularly vulnerable to stroke. This rapid diversification of snake venoms however has direct implications for human medicine as these changes profoundly affect the ability of antivenom to cross-neutralise between species within the same genus or species in closely related genera. Sometimes even very closely related species are dramatically variable in their neutralisation by antivenom. Thus the fundamental principles that underpin the evolutionary success of venomous snakes, also make them particularly problematic from a clinical perspective.

Maintaining venomous animal collections: protocols and occupational safety
Bryan G. Fry
Venom Evolution Lab, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia QLD, 4072 Australia

For herpetologists, toxinologists, venom producers, and zookeepers, maintenance of a healthy collection of animals for research, venom extraction purposes, and educational outreach is crucial. Proper husbandry practices are a must for ensuring the health of any institution’s collection. In addition to concerns associated with animal health, numerous daily activities associated with the routine care and maintenance of a venomous collection can pose significant risks to employee safety. Not only must proper safety precautions be taken to minimize the risks associated with collection maintenance, but also steps must be taken to minimize stress placed upon the specimens themselves, thus promoting a healthy collection that will sustainably yield the venom required for research.