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  1. The same selective forces that give rise to rapid inter- and intraspecific divergence in snake venoms can also favor differences in venoms across life-history stages. Ontogenetic changes in venom composition are well known and widespread in snakes but have not been investigated to the level of unambiguously identifying the specific loci involved. The eastern diamondback rattlesnake was previously shown to undergo an ontogenetic shift in venom composition at sexual maturity, and this shift accounted for more venom variation than geography. To characterize the genetics underlying the ontogenetic venom compositional change inC. adamanteus, we sequenced adult/juvenile pairs of venom-gland transcriptomes from five populations previously shown to have different adult venom compositions. We identified a total of 59 putative toxin transcripts for C. adamanteus, and 12 of these were involved in the ontogenetic change. Three toxins were downregulated, and nine were upregulated in adults relative to juveniles. Adults and juveniles expressed similar total levels of snake-venom metalloproteinases but differed substantially in their featured paralogs, and adults expressed higher levels of Bradykinin-potentiating and C-type natriuretic peptides, nerve growth factor, and specific paralogs of phospholipases A2and snake venom serine proteinases. Juvenile venom was more toxic to mice, indicating that the expression differences resulted in a phenotypically, and therefore potentially ecologically, significant difference in venom function. We also showed that adult and juvenile venom-gland transcriptomes for a species with known ontogenetic venom variation were equally effective at individually providing a full characterization of the venom genes of a species but that any particular individual was likely to lack several toxins in their transcriptome. A full characterization of a species’ venom-gene complement therefore requires sequencing more than one individual, although the ages of the individuals are unimportant.

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