I am sad to day that Biology of the Pitvipers is over. I can honestly say that the Conference ended as it began, with a day filled with great pitviper talks! We started the morning with a group picture. If you haven’t yet requested your group photo you can do that here. We started teh morning with a four talks on pitviper “-omics.” This is admittedly not my area so I can’t say for certainty if the talks were venomics, genomics, or transcriptomics. I can say his is a really cool area of research with a lot of potential to improve the human condition. Through the work of guys like Ken Wray and Darin Rokyta we are learning the genes responsible for venom production have been around a long time in a lot of other places (livers, pancreas, heart, intestines), but are being recruited and duplicated by snakes to produce venom in the venom glands.
After a break for milk and cookies (no joke!) we saw a talk by Emily Taylor of Cal Poly about translocation and stress in Red daimond rattlesnakes. Emily’s talk was followed by a neat biogeorgraphy talk looking at variation in scalation and body size in relation to elevation . George Bakken blew everyone away with a talk about the physics of thermal imaging. Pitvipers are able to see heat images stereoscopically, and George adn Aaron Krockmal have worked out much of the physics of that system. These talks were followed up by talks about the phylogenesis of diet and microbial ecology of the gut fauna of pitvipers.
The afternoon was dedicated to studies on movement and the natural history of feeding and reproduction. Warren Booth et al. work on parthenogenesis is pretty freaking cool.
The final four talks of the day were about phylogenetics of pitvipers, strike kinematics and photography of rattlesnakes. I hate to short change the end of the day. These were great talks, but I have to get checked out the hotel. I am meeting on of the most influential rattlesnake biologists of the late 20th century for lunch.