Most snakes are born with poisonous bites they use for defense. But what can non-poisonous snakes do to ward off predators?
What if they could borrow a dose of poison by eating toxic toads, then recycling the toxins?
That's exactly what happens in the relationship between an Asian snake and a species of toad, according to a team of researchers funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS).
Herpetologists Deborah Hutchinson, Alan Savitzky of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., and colleagues published results of research on the snake's dependence on certain toads in this week's online issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Hutchinson studied the Asian snake Rhabdophis tigrinus and its relationship to a species of toxic toad it eats. In the PNAS paper, she and co-authors describe dietary sequestration of toxins by the snakes. The process allows the snakes to store toxins from the toads in their neck glands. When under attack, the snakes re-release the poisons from these neck glands.
Many invertebrates sequester dietary toxins for use in defense, including milkweed insects and sea slugs. But vertebrate examples of toxin sequestration, especially from vertebrate prey, are rare. "A snake that's dependent on a diet of toads for chemical defense is highly unusual," said Hutchinson.
Hutchinson said the research had identified six compounds in the snakes that may hold promise in medical treatments for people suffering from hypertension and related blood pressure disorders.
The researchers made their case by testing Rhabdophis tigrinus on several Japanese islands, one with a large population of the toxic toads and another with none, and compared them with snakes from the Japanese island of Honshu, where toads are few. The presence of toxins in the snakes' neck glands depended upon their access to the toads.
Snakes without the borrowed toxins were more likely to turn and flee from danger than to hold their ground and perform a toxin-releasing defensive maneuver.
"Sequestration of toxins in a specialized [neck gland] structure in a vertebrate is a remarkable finding," said William Zamer, IOS deputy director at NSF. "This finding offers new insights into the complex mechanisms underlying ecological relationships and will lead to important insights about fundamental biological questions."
Cheryl Dybas | EurekAlert!
The birth of a new protein
20.10.2017 | University of Arizona
Building New Moss Factories
20.10.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
20.10.2017 | Information Technology
20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research