PULLMAN — Professor Kenneth Kardong has studied rattlesnakes and other venomous snakes over the 36 years he has been at WSU. He is the author of numerous research papers and a textbook on vertebrate anatomy and evolution, and he has taught legions of WSU undergraduates, as well as many graduate students.
 
Kardong will give a public address that synthesizes his years of research. The talk is scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 8, in Abelson, Room 201, with refreshments starting at 3:30 p.m. in Abelson, Room 306.
 
“This series is not just the usual faculty talk,” said School of Biological Sciences Director Gary Thorgaard. “Each address is a chance for one of our faculty members to pull together ideas from many years of research and study. Anyone with interests in the life sciences is encouraged to attend and get an outstanding overview of the subject.”

Venomous snakes have “solved” several unique challenges as they evolved from earlier, non-venomous ancestor snakes. They have adapted to produce some highly potent poisons, modify fangs to inject prey with them, and change in myriad other ways on their journey to becoming effective venomous snakes. The title of the talk is “Evolving Around Complexity: solving Cuvier’s dilemma.” 

Over the years Kardong has captured and studied rattlesnakes in the Northwest and other poisonous snakes elsewhere. Students remember his high-speed film showing the many separate events that happen at lighting speed as a rattlesnake strikes its prey. He is also an expert on how rattlesnakes relocate their prey, using their eyes, infrared “pits” below their eyes, and their flickering tongues to find rodents who have run off to die.

Kardong’s work has been featured in a BBC documentary production as well as by Northwest news media.

The talk and preceding reception are free and open to the public.