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Nathan Piccoli

Biochemistry Pre-Med and Biology Pre-Med Double Major
Physical and Biological Sciences Category


Hello, my name is Nathan Piccoli, and I am a senior, Pre-Med double major here at Missouri Southern.  I have gone to Missouri Southern my entire college career, and am excited to share my research project that I have been working on for the past couple of years.  I am the president of the Wildlife Society, the treasurer of Caduceus Club, a student in the Honors Program, and a research student in the reptile physiology lab in Reynolds.  After graduation in May, I will be attending the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine to fulfill my dream of becoming a physician! 


Striking behavior represents one of the most important and adaptive traits to the biology of snakes.  Although almost all snakes exhibit this behavior for both predation and defense, the physiological mechanisms used vary between the type of strike and species of snake.  Defensive strikes offer insight into predator-prey interaction among snakes.  Viperids and colubrids have acquired separate physiological responses to predators in their environment throughout evolutionary time.  The viper’s clade has evolved highly effective hemotoxic venom that it uses for both prey capture and defense.  This venom is produced by glands that are situated at either side of the maxilla.  Changes in size and shape of each individual are likely to have an effect on defensive responses, such as venom delivery.  Here, we will measure the striking performance and venom delivery of a widely-recognized viper (Agkistrodon piscivorus) across ontogeny to better understand how size impacts defensive performance.  All individuals will be given the opportunity to elicit three consecutive defensive strikes while recording with a high-speed camera.  All variables including strike kinematics and venom quantity will be extracted from each video and compared using various correlation and regression models.  Based on muscular physiology, we suspect that all measures of defensive strike performance will be greater in larger individuals when compared with smaller individuals. 

Poster Presentation