Web edition: May 30, 2012
Even behind thick glass at the zoo, rattlesnakes look dangerous. Then you walk into the sunshine and visit the outdoor exhibits. You smile as the Komodo dragon — at up to 300 pounds (136 kilograms), the world's heaviest lizard — plays tug-of-war with its keeper. In the bird exhibit, hooded pitohuis (pit-eww-ease) from Papua New Guinea flutter to the top perch in a colorful flurry of orange and black feathers. Their song fills the air. A duck-billed platypus, a strange Australian mammal, swims in quick circles in its murky pond while hunting for crustaceans. You've forgotten about the venomous snakes and spiders.
However, even lizards, birds and mammals sometimes arm themselves with chemical weapons. You've just walked past three examples. They each possess powerful poisons. And these interest scientists not only because of how the chemicals aid in the animals’ defense but also because modified versions of these weapons may one day aid medicine.
Eruption early in human prehistory may have been more whimper than bang
Greed may breed financial fitness, but evolution allows unselfishness to survive
Fine-tuning of technique used in other animals could enable personalized medicine
Simulation suggests long-term effect on sea level not as dire as some predictions
Coverage of the 2013 American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting
The Year in Science 2012
Three-part series on the scientific struggle to explain the conscious self
Tables of contents, columns and FAQs on SN Prime for iPad