When not in use a pit viper's fangs lie folded back against the roof of the snake's mouth. Each resting in a sheath of soft membranous skin. When the moment arrives the maxillary bones rotate the fangs forward. The venom ducts that lead from the venom glands empty into the sheaths. The venom is forced into the opening at the top of each fang and is squirted out of the orifice near the tip.
Nature has given the pit vipers an unlimited supply of fangs. Concealed in the roof of their mouth behind each maxillary bone is a series of replacement fangs in progressive stages of development. Throughout the snake's life there is a never-ending cycle of fangs being created, growing and moving forward. Each one eventually to become the functional fang of the moment. This shedding of an old fang and replacement with a new fang takes place approximately every sixty days or so. Each functional fang is stabilized in position by its attachment to the maxillary bone. Each maxillary bone has two sockets for receiving and holding fangs. Normally only one fang is glued in position, but when a new fang is moving into its socket it is not unusual to find the old fang remaining alongside the new one for several days until it is securely locked in place.
Copyright © 1991 by American International Rattlesnake Museum