Cone snail deploys insulin to slow speedy prey | Science News

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Cone snail deploys insulin to slow speedy prey

Attacked fish turn into sitting ducks as blood sugar drops

By
3:00pm, January 19, 2015
extendable funnel-shaped mouth tube of the cone snail

SECRET WEAPON  The extendable funnel-shaped mouth tube of the cone snail Conus geographus engulfs live fish with some help from weaponized insulin produced by the snail.

Fish-hunting cone snails release insulin that can work as a weapon, sending nearby prey’s blood sugar plummeting and making the groggy fish easy for a less-than-speedy snail to catch.

This is the first insulin discovered in the complex venom brews that cone snails produce, says biochemist Helena Safavi-Hemami of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. She and colleagues found the insulin during a standard screen of venom genes from two cone snail species (Conus geographusand C. tulipa). Instead of being a version of the compound that regulates mollusk metabolism, it seemed to be a version more likely to affect fish, they report January 20 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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