african crested rat poison

Weinstein and her colleagues wanted to confirm that this unusual behavior seen in a single rat was, in fact, widespread in this species. Still, he says, there are many unanswered questions that "scream for attention, most notably the precise chemistry and evolutionary history of crested rat saliva. Pinterest. Credit: Stephanie Higgins. An African crested rat is a rabbit-sized rodent that is the only known mammal to sequester plant toxins as a chemical defense Credit: Stephanie Higgins People in East Africa have long suspected the rat to be poisonous. For their new paper, Dr. Weinstein and her team snared 25 rodents and filmed them in the lab. Instead, they will chew chunks of the plants and spit them back out into their fur, anointing themselves with a form of chemical armor that most likely protects them from predators like hyenas and wild dogs. The African crested rat gnaws on poisonous tree branches, then grooms its noxious spittle into its fur. All plant parts contain acovenoside A and ouabaïne, which are cardiotonic glycosides. By talking with locals that still use the poison arrow tree sap on their arrows, researchers learned that the compounds are extremely stable. Photo by Sara B. Weinstein. After a childhood spent growing up in East Africa, Kingdon was familiar enough with these creatures to be able to describe them in the 1974 opus he wrote on African mammals. They are pretty fuzzy." Dr. Weinstein’s research, which was published last week in the Journal of Mammalogy, is not the first to document the crested rats’ bizarre behavior. African crested rats are rabbit-size fuzzballs with endearing faces and a catlike purr. It also had an added benefit, as Weinstein explained in the press release. To would-be predators, the African crested rat, Lophiomys imhausi, is trouble. The world's only poisonous rodent, the maned rat borrows toxins from plants to fend off predators. A poisonous rat that licks deadly toxins onto its own fur sounds like some kind of made-up nightmare species. It’s not for nutrition. But only one crested rat, held in captivity, was observed engaging in these slathering shenanigans in the 2011 paper, raising the possibility that the behavior had been a fluke. African Crested Rat Can Poison Itself. The African crested rat (Lophiomys imhausi) slathers its fur in a deadly toxin. Give them a chance and African crested rats will take nibbles from the branch of a poison arrow tree. "A lot of that is fluff. A new study discovered an unexpectedly rich social life. The maned rat or (African) crested rat (Lophiomys imhausi) is a nocturnal, long-haired and bushy-tailed East African rodent that superficially resembles a porcupine. ", Ferguson says this rat has long been almost "mythical, in that it's eluded our understanding, and there's been speculation. The research team eventually managed to trap and observe 25 rats. (Like all other rodents, they are incapable of vomiting.). Crested rats do not produce their own poison like the duck billed platypus, which has a poisonous spur on its hind foot, or Solenodon shrews which make poisonous saliva. The African crested rat sequesters poisons from Acokanthera schimperi into specialized hairs, shown here alongside typical hairs. The crested rat, Lophiomys imhausi, is the only mammal known to sequester plant toxins.Found in eastern Africa, this large rodent is thought to defend against predation by coating specialized hairs along its sides with cardenolide toxins from the poison arrow tree, Acokanthera schimperi. People in East Africa have long known about the crested rat’s poisonous punch, which has felled many an overcurious dog. A pair of African crested rats. But these creatures are real, and scientists now say they are also unexpectedly affectionate—at least with their own kind. The African crested rat (Lophiomys imhaus i) is hardly the continent’s most fearsome-looking creature—the rabbit-sized rodent resembles a gray puffball crossed with a skunk—yet its fur is packed with a poison so lethal it can fell an elephant, and just a few milligrams can kill a human. WhatsApp. The behavior truly seemed to have no negative effect on the animals, which remained perfectly active and healthy inside their enclosures, she says, noting that "if I was to go out there and start chewing on this tree, I would get incredibly sick and probably die.". When the two rats were put in the same enclosure, "they started grooming each other and they went into the nest box together," says Weinstein, "which totally changed how we were thinking about these animals and their behavior.". But these creatures are real, and scientists now say they are also unexpectedly affectionate—at least with their own kind. The African crested rat is the only mammal known to sequester lethal plant toxins. The rats don’t have to do this very often to remain poisonous. The ritual transforms the rats into the world’s only known toxic rodents, and ranks them among the few mammals that borrow poisons from plants. The African crested rat's fuzzy fur has hairs loaded with a poison that can purportedly fell an elephant. WhatsApp. The animals don't look at all like a typical city rat. It is the only known rodent species to do this, and one of the very few mammals that use poison found in plants for defensive purposes. When their cages were next to each other, though, "they started making these really interesting purring vocalizations that we'd never heard before," says Weinstein. The rodents chew on the bark and leaves of the highly toxic poison arrow tree (Acokanthera schimperi) before transferring a mixture of toxins and saliva specifically to the lateral lines of fur on their flanks. Ashok Singh - November 25, 2020. I call it the “skunk rat” because of its similar black-and-white striped pattern, because, like skunks, it moves slowly (especially for a rodent), and because, also like skunks, encounters with it are unpleasant. The African crested rat is the only mammal known to sequester plant toxins for chemical defense. It sure looked like two knew each other and wanted to be together. The African crested rat gnaws on poisonous tree branches, then grooms its noxious spittle into its fur. It contains a toxin purportedly potent enough to kill an elephant, when applied to an arrow head. By Rebecca Morelle Science reporter, BBC News . Rat-shaped little cows. That structure appears to let the hairs act like a sponge for absorbing poison, which the rat obtains from a plant and deliberately applies to its own body. A microscope view of the hairs of the African crested rat, showing the honeycomb-like structure that allows them to hold the poison. A close-up view of the African crested rat’s poison anointed hairs. A study has shed new light on a mysterious and rare rodent, confirming a long-held suspicion that the tiny creature's fur is laced with poison. To would-be predators, the African crested rat, Lophiomys imhausi, is trouble. While doing field work in Kenya, Dr. Weinstein was horrified when a gang of monkeys broke into her lab and absconded with some of the team’s crested rat fecal samples. Then the animal coated its specialized hairs with the foul mixture. The African crested rat's fuzzy fur has hairs loaded with a poison that can purportedly fell an elephant. “Monogamy is very rare in mammals,” said Ricardo Mallarino, an evolutionary biologist at Princeton who wasn’t involved in the study. But its poison is not its own. African crested rats deter predators by borrowing poison bark Scientists have found the first example of a mammal that uses poison from … Kate Shaw Yoshida - Aug 9, 2011 12:00 pm UTC The African crested rat (Lophiomys imhausi) slathers its fur in a deadly toxin. Like a skunk, these creatures have black and white markings that may serve as a warning. Copy link. It's felled more than a few hungry dogs over the years. Stephanie Higgins ", Sara Weinstein/Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute. A giant rodent known as the African crested rat is, despite its adorable appearance, deadly. The African crested rat was long thought to be solitary. Facebook. The African crested rat was long thought to be solitary. Instead, the African crested rat will gnaw on branches of poison arrow trees, and then coat its fur with the poison, becoming truly toxic in the process. "As mammologists and biologists, and humans in general, we're obsessed with rare things. African crested rat uses poison trick to foil predators. hide caption. Microscopic image of the specialized hairs that the African crested rat anoints with poison from Acokanthera schimperi. But its poison is not its own. After reviewing almost 1,000 hours of … 0. When ripe they are sweet but also slightly bitter. They dwell in forested areas on the eastern side of the continent, and people there have long known to steer clear of these elusive black and white rodents. So that information has been sort of circulating around for a very long time," says Sara Weinstein, a researcher with the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Utah who has worked with colleagues in Kenya to trap and study the rats. 0. These spongy hairs include a poison highly effective sufficient to deliver an elephant to its knees, and are central to Dr. Weinstein’s latest analysis, which confirmed concepts about how this rat makes itself so lethal. (Those that survive their encounters tend to give the rats … But these rats turn out to be social, affectionate creatures. In the Journal of Mammalogy, they say about half of them chewed on the tree branches and applied poison to their hair. To better understand the ecology of this unusual poisonous mammal, we used camera … By. The African crested rat (Lophiomys imhaus i) is hardly the continent’s most fearsome-looking creature—the rabbit-sized rodent resembles a gray puffball crossed with a skunk—yet its fur is packed with a poison so lethal it can fell an elephant, and just a few milligrams can kill a human. This Rat Covers Itself With Poison That Can Take Out an Elephant. The rodents chew on the bark and leaves of the highly toxic poison arrow tree (Acokanthera schimperi) before transferring a mixture of toxins and saliva specifically to the lateral lines of fur on their flanks. Published. Twitter. The African crested rat (Lophiomys imhausi) is hardly the continent’s most fearsome-looking creature—the rabbit-sized rodent resembles a gray puffball crossed with a skunk—yet its fur is packed with a poison so lethal it can fell an elephant and just a few milligrams can kill a human. Those spongy hairs contain a poison powerful enough to bring an elephant to its knees, and are central to Dr. Weinstein’s recent research, which confirmed ideas about how this rat makes itself so deadly. The bark, wood and roots of Acokanthera schimperi are used as an important ingredient of arrow poison in Africa. 1. Neighboring African hunters use the same substance to make elephant-grade poison … By. (Those that survive their encounters tend to give the rats a wide berth.) Facebook. (It’s also called the “maned rat”.) Research collaboration confirms that African crested rats, L. imhausi, not only store poison as a protective mechanism, but appear to be resistant to the toxins themselves. When cornered, they fluff up the fur along their backs into a tip-frosted mohawk, revealing rows of black-and-white bands that run like racing stripes down their flanks — and, at their center, a thicket of specialized brown hairs with a honeycomb-like texture. “The monkeys, I think, were equally disappointed,” Dr. Weinstein said. The crested rat, Lophiomys imhausi, is the only mammal known to sequester plant toxins.Found in eastern Africa, this large rodent is thought to defend against predation by coating specialized hairs along its sides with cardenolide toxins from the poison arrow tree, Acokanthera schimperi. Give them an opportunity, and African crested rats will take nibbles from the department of a poison arrow tree. An undated photo provided by Stephanie Higgins shows an African crested rat. Stephanie Higgins A giant rodent known as the African crested rat is, despite its adorable appearance, deadly. It’s not for nutrition. hide caption. 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