They are hiding in the woods, you need to find a space and clean out the closet. The bodies of the hourglasses are marked by black shining hourglasses, He pierced many unwary with his thumb and tooth. A hidden menace, black widow spiders do not attack – they often squeeze or squeeze them to attack – but their virus bites are very painful to humans, and deadly to small animals such as mice.
It’s hard to believe that something would want to make a meal of such a venomous arachnid, but in California and other Western states, alligator lizards swing widows like crunchy black popcorn.
He fascinated Chris Feldman, now a biology professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, who first caught black widow lizards as a graduate student. Although the widow’s venom is harmless when eaten, lizards are most likely to bite while taming their prey. Were they somehow immune?
In a paper published Wednesday in the Royal Society Open Science, Dr. Feldman and colleagues tried to answer this question by experimenting with three species of lizard and the smallest stage. Their results suggest that over the course of a long history of living with spiders, alligator lizards have developed a remarkable ability to repel widowhood venom.
In the warm environments where widows thrive in the American West, lizards are close neighbors. They eat black widows or small lizards that can become entangled in their webs, said Dr. Feldman. To see if different types of protection have evolved, Vicki Thill, a graduate student, and their collaborators brought alligator lizards and western fence lizards, both of which eat widows, and tile-sided lizards, which are known to eat widows. in the lab There they injected the black widow’s starlings with poison, and they ran along a small course to see if their speed affected the poison.
Covering the sides slowed the lizard down, showing that the virus was having some effect. But when some of them had received enough poison to kill five rats, the lizards and lizards often did not change anything.
“They were pretty safe,” said Mike Teglas, also a Rhine professor and author of the paper. “We were pretty excited.”
Next, the researchers examined muscle tissue in the lizards’ legs. In mammals, the black widow virus kills muscle cells and leaves tissue waste around the bite. Fence lizards and side lizards had certain signs of muscle damage and inflammation. But in alligator lizards, the muscle seemed to be completely intact. As if the poison had never been injected.
This suggests that alligator lizards have evolved a quick way to protect themselves from poison ivy.
“My guess is that alligator lizards have something in their serum — their blood — that works right away,” Dr. Feldman said, indicating that any compound can be neutralized or poisoned before it does any harmful damage.
California king snakes, which sometimes eat crabs, have evolved such a defense, he points out.
“They have cruel slaves in their blood, who bind slaves in the poisoned crackle, which renders them useless,” he said.
In addition, experiments with other species of lizards, as yet unpublished, suggested that whatever protection the alligator lizards have, arises from a long association with spiders, many species that are not preyed upon by black widows, much more vulnerable to the animals’ poisons. .
Research into exactly how the alligator lizard achieves this feat will likely have to wait until its genome is sequenced, making it easier to see what its related species lack. Meanwhile, Dr. Feldman asks whether more studies of just how many spiders lizards eat in the wild can help reveal the origins of the trait.
Dr. Feldman said he was first inspired to study the alligator lizard’s appetite when he read a letter to the journal Science written by a herpetologist in 1937. Knowing that he was responding to a proposed plan to control black widows in Southern California by sending a red pen and alligator lizard to an area more suitable.
What was misunderstood at the time was that toads are a voracious invasive species, and even poisonous. They have decimated ecosystems where they were introduced in the 20th century to help control insects.
Fortunately, California avoided that particular scourge. Lizards and their prey live together, and after a while they become mad.
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