Pit vipers' night vision explained | Science News

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Pit vipers' night vision explained

Study finds protein responsible for sensing heat from prey

By
2:22pm, March 14, 2010

The molecule that lets snakes sense heat is the same one that makes wasabi feel fiery.

Scientists have known for decades that some snakes use specialized holes called pit organs to “see” the heat radiating from prey. Now, molecular biologists have pinpointed the protein that gives pit-bearing snakes — vipers, boas and pythons — this sixth sense. The culprit is called TRPA1, a protein whose human counterpart is known as the “wasabi receptor” for its role in sensing the potent condiment. The results are reported online March 14 in Nature.

“This is one of the first really interesting new findings in that species” in 20 years, comments snake

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