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
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