Influence of size, sex and age on venom yield of <em>Bothrops leucurus</em> (Serpentes, Viperidae) in captivity conditions
Snake venom is an expensive metabolic weapon used for digestion and defense. Detailed studies on the production of venoms are important for the manufacture of antivenoms and for the therapeutic management of snakebites. Bothrops leucurus is one of the snakes of medical importance responsible for a large number of accidents in Northeast Brazil. To establish the correlation between Bothrops leucurus venom (Blv) yield, under captive conditions, and the morphological characteristics (body mass and length), sex and age, 31 specimens were milked during one year, grouped by sex and age (juvenile, adult and long-lived), totaling 106 extractions in that period. We evaluated the electrophoretic profile (SDS-PAGE) under reducing conditions, the 50% lethal dose (LD50) and the minimum coagulant dose (DMC) of the extracted venoms. The body size was positively correlated with venom production in B. leucurus snakes. Regardless of sex and age, the venom showed no differences between liquid and solid composition or between right and left fang, however, the production of venom in females was twice the one found in males and more lethal. The clotting ability was lost as the animals aged, indicating that older snakes are not the best choice for venom pools in the production of antivenoms. These results are important for the choice of animals to antivenom production, and to understand the biological effects of snake venoms under captive conditions.