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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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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.