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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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ScienceShot: Spit It Out!
14 June 2012 12:00 pm
They won't win any points from Miss Manners, but seed-spitting rodents in Israel's Negev Desert avoid becoming victims of chemical warfare while sowing a new generation of a Middle Eastern desert plant. The 4-millimeter-wide berries of a plant called taily weed (Ochradenus baccatus, top left) are laced with harmless molecules that, when combined, produce a mustard oil bomb. Cracking open the berry's seeds releases the enzyme myrosinase, which mixes with compounds called glucosinolates in the flesh to produce the toxic brew. Field observations demonstrated that two species of spiny mice (Acomys cahirinus, top right, and Acomys russatus) and the bushy-tailed jird (Sekeetamys calurus) spit out intact seeds when eating the berries. When scientists deactivated the "bombs" in the lab by neutralizing myrosinase, spiny mice ate 80% of the seeds compared with 27% from active bombs. Discarded seeds had double the germination rates as seeds left in the berries, the team reports online today in Current Biology. The plant's chemical defense has thus turned a seed consumer into a disperser, demonstrating that bad manners sometimes lead to good things.
See more ScienceShots.