Marine creature cooks up chemical defense from food | Science News


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Marine creature cooks up chemical defense from food

Sea hare turns algal pigment toxic to ward off crabs and other predators

4:40pm, June 4, 2010

One beastie’s pigment is another’s poison. The marine-dwelling sea hare converts pigment from its food into a chemical weapon, a new study shows.

It is the first description of an animal taking photosynthetic pigment from its diet and turning it into a molecule that can wield off would-be attackers, researchers report in an upcoming issue of Animal Behaviour.

Some animals create noxious chemicals by building them in-house from bits of protein, others order toxins to-go, such as monarch caterpillars that eat poisonous milkweed plants, becoming poisonous to predatory birds in the process. But performing slight alterations to turn a benign algae pigment into a toxic com

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