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I'm having trouble finding out how this venom would work with one of my dragon characters. The venom is sprayed out of 2 long front fangs- like a snake, and the venom is acidic and melts through any organic or living material. This dragon is very heavily based on Rainwings from Wings of Fire by Tui.T Sutherland.

What im having trouble with is figuring out how exactly this venom would scientifically work. things such as; The chemical makeup of the venom. How the venom is produced, how the venom melts things, and why this venom would evolve in the first place.

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    $\begingroup$ How do you think digestion in the real world works? Enzymes. Chemical makeup is unnecessary unless your audience is filled with molecular biologists. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Apr 21, 2023 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ look up cytotoxic venom. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Apr 21, 2023 at 19:49
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    $\begingroup$ Spiders liquify prey organs regularly, perhaps their venom may give inspiration. $\endgroup$
    – Drake P
    Apr 22, 2023 at 0:18
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    $\begingroup$ Despite what Breaking Bad has taught us, Hydrofluoric acid is not actually that fast at "eating" things. What you really want is Fluoroantimonic acid - this stuff is about as close to face-melting horror as you're likely to get - just look what it does to this innocent chicken leg (warning: stuff of nightmares) $\endgroup$
    – Samwise
    Apr 22, 2023 at 1:45
  • $\begingroup$ This seems like a very broad question, and I'm not sure it's a good fit for WorldBuilding, as you seem to be asking after the real-life chemical processes of a (fictional, but also non-defined) venom. $\endgroup$
    – Joachim
    Apr 22, 2023 at 10:09

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The venom probably needs to be containable until it is needed, or it is going to destroy the animal. This is making me suggest a piranha solution, which is a mix of sulphuric acid and hydrogen peroxide. Both are containable by themselves, but when mixed, the combination will dissolve almost anything organic.

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It may or may not be classed a venom (as some definitions restrict toxins to organic compounds) but hydrofluoric acid ticks most boxes. If you want to melt organic material, HF is always a good bet.

How it's produced is simple: just like our own stomach acid, which is the chemically not-at-all-dissimilar hydrochloric acid.

And the reason for its evolution is probably similar too: to digest things. I'll leave it to your imagination what things it may be eating to require such a radical choice of digestive acid. It would however fit nicely with the dragons' general image if their diet contained items such as gemstones.

The ability to spray it out might have come as an "afterthought", the sooner young proto-dragons could get their digestive fluids onto their prey, the better chance they had of surviving to mating age.

Or maybe the ability to belch it up was always there but there was an evolutionary race with a prey species that developed a skin that can create a highly effective HF passivating layer, so piercing it became a matter of survival.

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    $\begingroup$ err HF is exceedingly toxic. And it virtually ignores your flesh n preferentially attacks bones, even by skin contact. It can be stored in plastic bottles, cant be stored in glass. $\endgroup$
    – camelccc
    Apr 21, 2023 at 16:32
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    $\begingroup$ @camelccc Venoms and toxins are generally defined as naturally occurring organic poisons. HF is inorganic, therefore not a toxin or a venom. That something can cause physical damage doesn't mean it's a toxin, by that definition, a hot pan is a toxin because it damages flesh on contact. $\endgroup$ Apr 21, 2023 at 18:18
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    $\begingroup$ @NuclearHoagie If your definition is organic, then OK. However it is extremely toxic. HF will react with the calcium in your bones and kill you from fluorosis long before it does any physical damage. It's not like any other acid in this regard. You can get it on yourself, not feel a thing, and then die the next day if not treated immediately. $\endgroup$
    – camelccc
    Apr 21, 2023 at 19:19
  • $\begingroup$ Fair point, for some reason the definition of toxin in my head was that it should be an organic molecule. But on reading up on it, that is probably not the most widespread definition. $\endgroup$
    – biziclop
    Apr 21, 2023 at 21:57
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In nature, some Arachnids already do that with Digestive Enzymes:

Arachnids typically digest their prey externally, by secreting enzymes onto the prey and then sucking up the liquefied remains.

(source)

Wikipedia's article on Arachnids goes into more detail. Basically they use venom to paralyze and/or kill their prey and then Digestive Enzymes then break it down:

Scorpions, spiders and pseudoscorpions secrete venom from specialized glands to kill prey or defend themselves. Their venom also contains pre-digestive enzymes that helps breaking down the prey. The saliva of ticks contains anticoagulants and anticomplements, and several species produce a neurotoxin.

Arachnids produce digestive enzymes in their stomachs, and use their pedipalps and chelicerae to pour them over their dead prey. The digestive juices rapidly turn the prey into a broth of nutrients, which the arachnid sucks into a pre-buccal cavity located immediately in front of the mouth. Behind the mouth is a muscular, sclerotised pharynx, which acts as a pump, sucking the food through the mouth and on into the oesophagus and stomach. In some arachnids, the oesophagus also acts as an additional pump.

(source)

So, basically you need a cocktail of toxins and/or neurotoxins (the "venom" part) and souped-up Digestive enzymes to do what you want your dragon to do. @biziclop's answer lists some acids that will very likely do the job.

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I am not a chemist, but I suspect that there is no such chemical.

Organic material (e.g. adventurers) is complex and composed of diverse molecules which contain diverse amounts of atoms which tend to be gases when liberated from those molecules.

It should be possible to concoct a compound or mixture which will violently react with some particular organic compound (e.g. cellulose), but do so in such a way that all reactants are solids or liquids at the average temperature of the reaction, resulting in only a little bit of gas bubbling out.

However, if the solvent compound is then introduced to a mixture of diverse organic compounds and water, it will react with whatever parts it reacts strongly with, leaving behind other elements, much of which will be gaseous at the reaction temperature, even if the reaction temperature is kept under the boiling point of water somehow. For a sufficiently strong acid this can even take place in pure water. Gases like to expand, which will violently eject uncontained reagents from the reaction (surface of the adventurer) and all over the floor of the lab (dungeon).

Consequently, any chemical sufficiently potent that the small amount that sticks to an adventurer could rapidly dissolve big holes through him will mostly froth away instead, leaving nasty chemical burns, but not big holes.

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  • $\begingroup$ By the way, Piranha solutions are EXTREMELY non-specific in which organic molecule they react with. $\endgroup$
    – biziclop
    Apr 21, 2023 at 22:01
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2 part epoxy resin.

Chemical 1 is completely harmless and produced by Gland 1 Chemical 2 is also completely harmless and produced by Gland 2

When they are sprayed (Gland 2 is on the tip of the nose/snout) and mixed, they react to form a corrosive/toxic compound.

I'm sure someone more familiar with Organic chemistry can come up with a pair of chemicals that would fulfill this requirement. Could even add a 3rd in if needed.

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