As we established last week, biology is freaking crazy.
Here's more proof. For this, you don't even need to go to exotic Australia. The common American opossum produces a protein called Lethal Toxin-Neutralizing Factor (LTNF). This protein does pretty much what the name implies—seeking out potentially deadly poisons and neutralizing them. The benefit: Opossums are all-but immune to the venom of poisonous snakes. (Including the venom of snakes native to continents where the common American opossum does not live.) But it gets weirder, as Jason Bittel explains on the BittelMeThis blog:
So they took some rats and injected them with LTNF, then pumped them full of otherwise lethal doses of venom from Thailand cobras, Australian taipans, Brazilian rattlesnakes, scorpions and honeybees. But the rats just laughed in their faces.
“Dude,” said one scientist, “we have to kill these rats. Do you watch AMC’s Breaking Bad?” The other scientists nodded of course because everybody watches Breaking Bad. So next they tried to kill the rats with ricin, an extremely lethal poison made from castor beans. (How lethal? Just ask Georgi Markov, the real-life Bulgarian defector killed by a ricin umbrella gun. That’s right, I said ricin umbrella gun.)
Alas, the ricin was a no-go. The now-snooty rats danced Ring Around the Rosie.
“That’s it!” screeched the lead scientist. “It’s time to release the botulinum toxin. Surely this will conquer the awkward opossum’s super serum!” But after many maniacal laughs and a few bolts of lightning, the rats were still alive.
(The paper does not mention what became of the super rats. I can only assume they went on to write “The Secret of Nimh” while the evil scientists lost their rat-killing grant.)
Read the research paper
Read the rest of Jason Bittel's story on the strange and wonderful biology of opossums.
CORRECTION: This post originally referred to echidnas as marsupials. This is incorrect. They are monotremes. The editors apologize to any monotremes, marsupials, or zoologists who were offended.
Image: Jesus and the 12 Opossums, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from mollyeknox's photostream
San Francisco recently doubled the number of walls it was coating with hydrophobic paint, which is supposed to deter wall-pissing by making the urine spray back all over the pee-er.
“A sneezing monkey, a walking fish and a jewel-like snake are just some of a biological treasure trove of over 200 new species discovered in the Eastern Himalayas in recent years,” reports the World Wildlife Foundation today.
Three scientists won the world’s top science prize today, for their “mechanistic studies of DNA repair.” Their work mapped how cells repair deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) to prevent damaging errors from appearing in genetic information. Tomas Lindahl, Paul L. Modrich and Aziz Sancar today received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for “having mapped and explained how […]
It’s time for a power upgrade — throw out that tired-out power strip and swap in this family-size USB charger, packed with 6 high-speed ports. With a built-in control chip, Kinkoo optimizes each port to ensure the fastest charging possible for all your devices. The Kinkoo is made from high-grade and durable materials so you […]
Watching Netflix, Hulu or other streaming services can unfortunately be difficult while traveling outside the US. Rather than bypass these restrictions with the help of a complex and slow VPN, choose a faster and simpler solution with Getflix. Instead of rerouting all your Internet traffic through a different server, this handy service only routes the […]
Shake, stir, and muddle your way to delicious homemade cocktails with this must-have bar set. Expect only the finest quality tools from MakersKit — enabling you to unleash your inner mixologist.Top 12 Favorite Things of 2014, Sunset MagazineQuart-size vintage-style Mason jar shakerRetro double jigger for accurate measurementsStrainer & spouts for a mixologist-style smooth pourHardwood muddler […]