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Tales of creatures large and small made news this year

Snakes, giraffes, turtles and more were in the headlines in 2016

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7:00am, December 22, 2016
rattlesnake

FRIGHTFUL BITE  A study this year suggested that modern rattlesnakes have a smaller venom arsenal than their ancestors.

Scientists filled in the details of some famous evolutionary tales in 2016 — and discovered a few surprises about creatures large and small.

Venom repertoire

By studying a gene family important for toxin production, researchers found that modern rattlesnakes have pared down their venom arsenal over time (SN: 10/15/16, p. 9). Rattlers now have a smaller repertoire of toxins, perhaps more specialized to their prey.

Stepping forward

Small tweaks to a gene that makes a protein important for skeletal development may have led to the big toe and helped shape the human foot for bipedalism (SN: 2/6/16, p. 15).

Surprise absence

A gut microbe collected from chinchilla

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