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New books deliver double dose of venomous animal facts

‘Venomous’ and ‘The Sting of the Wild’ delve into the secrets of noxious biochemical cocktails

8:00am, July 24, 2016
Cow killer ant

OUCH  Dasymutilla occidentalis, commonly known as the cow killer ant based on its painful sting, is actually a flightless wasp. The wasp and other venomous critters are the subjects of two new books.

In the arms race of life, a number of animals use venom as a weapon to paralyze prey and jump-start digestion. Meanwhile, venom also helps a variety of other seemingly defenseless creatures improve their odds against larger, stronger or more aggressive foes.

In Venomous, molecular biologist Christie Wilcox surveys the animal kingdom’s wide array of biochemical warriors, from spiders and snakes to sea urchins and centipedes. In The Sting of the Wild, entomologist Justin O. Schmidt takes a more focused approach, zooming in on stinging insects such as ants, wasps and bees. Both books recount the origins and effects of venom in wonderful detail, as well as relating the fascinating tales of the researchers who study these noxious and sometimes fatal cocktails.

Male platypuses have venomous spurs on their hind legs that they use in competition with other males during mating season and, when needed, for self-defense. But, Wilcox notes, this is a rare

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