Today we probe some unexpected behaviors in the animal kingdom.
Let’s start with giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). On December 8th, 2020, Nature reported that pandas have been observed rolling in horse dung. Yup, poop. Before you say “gross,” they aren’t just doing this for kicks. Apparently, Fuwen Wei at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, Ren Lai at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Kunming and their colleagues discovered that this behavior only occurs when the temperature is between −5ºC (23ºF) to 15ºC (59ºF). Apparently, there is a chemical in fresh horse manure that blocks cold receptors in the panda skin.
Check out more at https://www.pnas.org/content/117/51/32493 and https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-03477-w
Ok, now, you can say “gross…”
So let me take your mind off of that and propose a riddle: Will a bite from one venomous snake be toxic to another? Or even itself?
(Ok, I’ll fess up — I didn’t know that snakes sometimes preyed on other snake species.)
You may already know that snake’s venom includes neurotoxins (nerve-attacking chemicals) that can kill small mammals pretty quickly. However, some species of snakes can survive bites that are deadly to others or even from their own kind.
Two researchers, Bryan Fry and Richard Harris, from the University of Queensland, Australia, identified genetic mutations that reduce the impact of the venom by repealing some of the potential binding abilities. Although, not every snake develops this resistance. Only those that appear to have the greatest risk do.
Check out this article here for more information: https://www.sciencefocus.com/news/genetic-mutations-magnetic-resistance-to-snake-venom/
Or the more technical abstract here: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2020.2703