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New poisonous mammal? Better read the fine print

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poison rat/Kevin Deacon

New poisonous mammal? Better read the fine print

From ScienceDaily we learn, “African Rodent Uses ‘Poison Arrow’ Toxin to Deter Predators: First Known Mammal to Use Plant Poison in Defense”:

In the only known instance of a mammal acquiring a lethal toxin from a plant for defense, the researchers have discovered where the African crested rat (or maned rat) gets its poison: the Acokanthera tree, the same source used by East African hunters for poison arrows.

Some of us thought no mammal did this (totally into teeth and claws). Just shows ya. But, worth noting, the rat doesn’t produce the poison from its own life processes:

Scientists have long suspected that the African crested rat is poisonous, primarily due to the animal’s specialized behavior, such as exposing a black-and-white coloration on its flanks when threatened by predators, and accounts of dogs becoming ill or dying after encounters with rats. The new discovery concerns the nature of the chemical defense. Instead of producing poison itself — as is the case with poisonous mammals such as the duck-billed platypus and solenodon — the African crested rat finds its toxin (called ouabain) in tree bark.

The rat applies the deadly stuff on its flanks, thus killing dogs. Now, how did it learn to do this?

Are the selfish genes God or is Darwin wrong?

Good Designer Mung
What sequence of mutations produces actions that mimic reasoning on cause and effect? One of my favorites is the Killdeer bird which distracts predators from its nest by feigning injury. What was the first advantageous step? Running away and leaving its nest unprotected? Going into random convulsions at the sight of a predator? How does a bird know what it would look like with a broken wing, how fast to move, and how the predator will respond? That knowledge is acquired by learning or by reason. How did birds get it? ScottAndrews
Mean Designer. Mung

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