Molecules/Matter & Energy

Shaking off snake venom, flexible display screens and krill-sniffing penguins in this week's news

Snake venom no sweat for opossums

A pit viper’s hemorrhage-inducing venom is no sweat for some opossum species that devour the snakes with impunity. Now scientists at the University of Minnesota and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City have figured out why the opossums don’t give a hoot about possibly getting bitten. The snake venom targets an important blood-clotting protein, but the opossums’ blood clotter is chemically modified and evades the toxin’s molecular clutches, researchers report online June 22 in PLoS ONE. Other beasties that eat venomous snakes, such as honey badgers, mongooses and hedgehogs, have different tricks for disarming toxins, suggesting that antivenom strategies evolved multiple times in animals. Rachel Ehrenberg

Flexible display screen

Scientists have created a prototype of an electronic display screen that’s thinner than a dime and can be folded up like a piece of paper. The device employs flexible organic light-emitting diodes, a color filter and a protective layer that can be made at low temperatures. After 10,000 folds, the decrease in the screen’s brightness was so minor it was indiscernible to the human eye, scientists from Samsung in Korea and Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. report. While bending deforms liquid crystal displays, the new approach may make folding a screen literally seamless. The prototype is described online July 7 in Advanced Materials. —Rachel Ehrenberg

Penguins smells dinnertime

The scent of death means dinner for penguins. African penguins flock to oceanic spots that smell like dimethylsulfide, a compound released when krill and other tiny floaters meet their doom, researchers from the University of Cape Town in South Africa have discovered. For the penguins, the presence of dead and dying plankton means that a feast of living fish are eating krill nearby. The penguins can track the scent of their prey’s food from two kilometers away, the team reports online July 14 in the Journal of Experimental Biology. —Rachel Ehrenberg

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