Congenital malformations have been reported in all classes of vertebrates and may be a determinant of life span and survival. In reptiles, the incidence of congenital malformations can be associated with genetic and environmental causes, including pollution. The characterization of pathological processes involved in the development of congenital malformations of bone in snakes is rare in the literature, but is of great relevance in the field of reptile conservation and environmental health. We describe congenital bone lesions in 50 newborn jararaca (Bothrops jararaca) and 26 South American rattlesnakes (Crotalus durissus terrificus) born from wild-caught pregnant females in Southeastern Brazil. Lesions were evaluated by morphometric quantitative analysis, x-ray microtomography, and histopathologic descriptive analysis. Morphometric analysis showed that jararaca presented more severe axial lesions (kyphosis, scoliosis, and kyphoscoliosis) than rattlesnakes. Female rattlesnakes presented more severe axial lesions than did males. In rattlesnakes, spinal deformities were more frequently diagnosed in the caudal segment of the body. We present x-ray microtomographic assessments and images of malformed snakes (n=9) and characterized novel malformations, such as the agenesis of frontal, parietal, and supraoccipital bones in a jararaca specimen. Histopathologic findings included vertebral body fusion, myositis, coagulation necrosis, and disorganization of periaxial muscle fibers. The new methods and results presented in this study will be useful and informative for future research in pathology, teratology, embryology, and ecotoxicology in snakes.
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Vol. 53 • No. 4