What Are Fangs and How Do They Work?
A fang is a long, pointed tooth. In mammals, a fang is a canine tooth, used for biting and tearing flesh. Although humans are mammals and have canine teeth, the canines of most humans are relatively short and aren’t considered to be fangs.
Spiders also have external fangs, which are part of the chelicerae. Fangs are most common in carnivores or omnivores, but some herbivores, such as fruit bats, have them as well. They are generally used to hold or swiftly kill prey, such as in large cats.
Omnivorous animals, such as bears, use their fangs when hunting fish or other prey, but they are not needed for consuming fruit. Some apes also have fangs, which they use for threats and fighting.
In snakes, it is a venom-injecting tooth. Venomous snakes use their fangs to inject venom into their prey. Venom immobilizes — and sometimes kills — snakes’ prey.
Snake venom is a type of saliva produced by special glands. Venom contains a mixture of many different types of proteins and enzymes. Many of these proteins and enzymes are harmless to humans, but some are toxic. Many venomous snakes have long, hollow fangs through which venom can be injected directly into prey.
When a snake uses its fangs to bite, muscles force venom from its storage glands through a duct into the hollow fang. Tiny holes at the ends of the fangs eject the venom directly into prey. Some snakes have fangs at the back of their mouths. These fangs aren’t hollow. Instead, small grooves on the inside of the fangs direct venom into the wound caused by a bite. When they’re not being used, the fangs fold flat against the inside of the mouth.
Scientists sometimes catch venomous snakes and “milk” the venom from their fangs by squeezing the venom sac in their heads to force the release of the venom into a container. They then use this venom to create a special medicine — called “antivenin” — that can be used to save the lives of people bitten by snakes.