Using embryonic analysis, Mailho-Fontana, first author of the paper, discovered the glands — dubbed ‘dental glands’ – originated from a different tissue than the slime and poison glands found in the caecilian’s skin.
He said: “The poisonous skin glands form from the epidermis, but these oral glands develop from the dental tissue, and this is the same developmental origin we find in the venom glands of reptiles.”
The researchers concluded caecilians, equipped with no limbs and only a mouth for hunting, activate their oral glands when they bite down on prey, including worms, termites, frogs and lizards.
The team does not yet understand the biochemical composition of the fluid held in the oral glands.
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