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For context, I've been working on a fantasy race for use in a science fiction novel, the gist of which is essentially a red fox that has had its genes manipulated by a supernatural force with the primary purpose of blending with and killing members of its original species. I'm thinking of messing with sapience and a gradual progression towards bipedalism and opposable thumbs but...

Today I'm mostly concerned with assessing the viability of having venom glands and venom delivering fangs in the mouth of a red fox. How much does purposing the fangs to inject venom necessarily compromise their structural integrity? How big of a problem is that for an animal that only grows one set of permanent teeth? Does having venom injecting fangs necessarily lead to complications when using those fangs for their original purpose (i.e. tearing flesh)? How much would the presence of venom glands affect the facial structure of a fox that wants to pass for a normal member of its own species? Does having venom necessitate making any other changes to the creature's body?

Perhaps most importantly, what are some suggestions on how to structure a permanent tooth with the dual purpose of tearing flesh and injecting venom? I was initially thinking about a hollow tooth similar to that of a Solenoglyphous snake, but that seems a bit too fragile for a permanent tooth and I don't plan for these to be foldable.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site Rhodium! This answer to a question of mine about cats with toxic claws mentions a way for cats to have poison on their teeth. That might be interesting for you. Great question by the way. Have fun on the site! $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Aug 7 at 14:28
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    $\begingroup$ Not an answer to your question but a different approach to your premise: check out Devil facial tumor disease. It is a transmissible cancer that is wiping out Tasmanian devils. A more demonic thing than fangs, even! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil_facial_tumour_disease $\endgroup$ – Willk Aug 7 at 16:02
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    $\begingroup$ Also related: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/320/… $\endgroup$ – Liath Aug 8 at 9:58
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Solenoglyphy is not the only envenomation mechanism that snakes can use there are also opisthoglyphous and proteroglyphous snakes, I would suggest that either of these mechanisms would be more suitable for a fox that has to tear and crew its meat. In particular opisthoglyphous teeth are almost unaltered in their morphology except for surface groves that channel venom into the wounds they cause. Using opisthoglyphous teeth for envenomation I see no reason why a fox analogue would have any issues, since these teeth are just as strong as their venomless counterparts.

The size of the glands, and the degree to which they effect skull morphology, will depend on the toxin being produced and more importantly the dose needed. Given that magic is a factor in creating this toxic fox I would expect that the toxin is quite powerful requiring a relatively small dose and thus small glands that will fit seamlessly within the jawbone are practical.

Do remember that venom is often relatively metabolically expensive so your poisonous foxes may need more food than you'd expect.

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  • $\begingroup$ I took a look at opisthoglyphous and proteroglyphous snakes. I can certainly see the advantage of going with an opisthoglyphous fang design. What I'm unsure of is that it is my understanding that opisthoglyphous snakes tend to chew their venom into their prey, and I was curious of if this might be a limitation of delivering the venom through surface grooves? I'm imagining these foxes would want the venom to go into their prey on the first bite and then hang on if they can while it struggles. $\endgroup$ – Rhodium Aug 7 at 14:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Rhodium They certainly bite their venom into their prey rather than injecting it through the core of the fang so they tend to impart smaller doses in a single strike attack than hollow fanged. As such they often have to hit-and-hold or yes indeed chew to get a lethal dose of venom into their prey, but that's how canines hunt anyway, they grab and hold, or shake, their prey so I don't see that as an issue. Proteroglyphous teeth can be quite strong if you think injection is a necessity for some reason. $\endgroup$ – Ash Aug 7 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ Understood, for some reason I imagined that the opisthoglyphous fang structure might necessitate chewing rather than grabbing and holding (or grabbing and shaking), which is what I imagine these foxes would do. I know proteroglyphous snakes tend to grab and hold, so I was leaning towards a proteroglyphous fang structure, but I just found an image of the cross-sections of various types of fangs, and I noticed the grooves in the opisthoglyphous fang structure are deeper than I had imagined based on written descriptions. I think opisthoglyphous fangs will probably work. $\endgroup$ – Rhodium Aug 7 at 14:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Rhodium Yeah I would expect that the shake that canines often use to kill prey would be more than violent enough to assist envenomation at least as well as repeated bites, i.e. chewing, if not slightly better depending on the exact design. $\endgroup$ – Ash Aug 7 at 14:58
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    $\begingroup$ @Rhodium Sorry just realised I'd only answered part of the question, have edited for completeness. $\endgroup$ – Ash Aug 7 at 15:08
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There are a few mammals alive today with venemous saliva. The solenodon is similar to a large shrew, and has grooves on specialized teeth that conduct the saliva into a bite. Apparently this produces anti-social behavior in the solenodon, such that if they are housed together there is a tendency for them to bite each other.

It is not too much of a stretch to imagine this critter evolving a more specialized version of this. For example, it could have a way to avoid accidental envenoming, such as storing the venom and having the ability to control whether a bite included it or not. Kind of harsh if they groom their own fur and accidentally poison themselves. Or it might develop two grades of saliva, one non-toxic for regular purposes and the other lethal and only directed down the grooves in it's teeth.

Some species of vampire bats have anti-coagulant in their saliva. It's not too much of a leap to imagine this being weaponized as opposed to just continuing the meal. A vampire fox might then be able to bite its prey once. Then it would stand around and wait for the prey to bleed to death. Then it could dine at its leisure.

There are also several critters that make use of venom that they obtain from other sources. For example, there is a species of rat that chews poisonous tree bark into a paste it then applies to its spiky hair. Maybe Mr. Fox can eat poisonous-something and store it in cheek pouches for later use.

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A venom is a nonliving toxin produced by an organism for use as a poison. Foxes do not have that. But a fox can definitely poison a thing with its bite. Foxes can transmit rabies.

If you want to wipe out a carnivore species rabies works great. African wild dogs have been driven to near extinction by rabies. They are social and so it is easy for a dog to get close to another dog. Once a pack member is infected others in the pack try to help and all get infected. Foxes are less social but they do interact.

A fox tooth with a hollow tip for a reservoir of infected saliva would do well at introducing / injecting infected saliva. The fox would not look particularly different as regards teeth. It might not look too great because of the rabies.

Genetically engineering a fox into a snake is pretty nerdy for a demon. Genetically engineering a fox so it would carry and spread (and suffer from) rabies but never die from the rabies seems more demonic, or even satanic.

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    $\begingroup$ This is more a case of targeting an aesthetic and working backward towards a cause. IE this is a fantasy race that will eventually become sapient and feature a main character, and I am just working backward to find the right creation story for that race. Currently, I'm trying to tie that creation story in with the reason humans no longer inhabit earth which is that the flora and fauna have turned hostile. I did not imagine that the cause was demonic or satanic but rather some kind of Lovecraftian madness with an epicenter in a research laboratory. $\endgroup$ – Rhodium Aug 8 at 12:18
  • $\begingroup$ So research nerds are the culprit after all. $\endgroup$ – Willk Aug 8 at 12:41
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Venomous fangs seem like a bad idea for mammals since it would be a bad idea for venom to set in before weaning is completed and hunting needs to start before that. Canines additionally are social animals and fights are part of establishing social order, with rituals and patterns for avoiding terminal damage of members of the same social group. That would not work well in connection with venom: that's more appropriate for animals with more of a solitary lifestyle.

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  • $\begingroup$ I believe foxes are solitary are they not? They are distinct from Wolves are dogs in that regard. $\endgroup$ – Rhodium Sep 6 at 22:24

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