A porcupine-like rat turns its quills into lethal weapons by coating them with a plant toxin, a new study says. "Basically, it's the only known mammal to date, at least that we know of, that co-opts toxins from a plant to make itself venomous," says Adam Ferguson, a mammal expert at the Field Museum in Chicago who says he's obsessed with these rats. They are pretty fuzzy." Its fruit is edible, and is eaten as a famine food. Stephanie Higgins Facebook. When the animal is threatened, it flares its fur to expose black and white stripes on its flanks. ", Sara Weinstein/Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute. 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. African Crested Rat Can Poison Itself. A new study discovered an unexpectedly rich social life. People in East Africa have long known about the crested rat’s poisonous punch, which has felled many an overcurious dog. (Those that survive their encounters tend to give the rats … ", Ferguson says this rat has long been almost "mythical, in that it's eluded our understanding, and there's been speculation. In various parts of East Africa lives a black-and-white striped rodent, the African crested rat, Lophiomys imhausi. Give them an opportunity, and African crested rats will take nibbles from the department of a poison arrow tree. "As mammologists and biologists, and humans in general, we're obsessed with rare things. ", The African crested rat sequesters poisons from Acokanthera schimperi into specialized hairs, shown here alongside typical hairs. Give them an opportunity, and African crested rats will take nibbles from the department of a poison arrow tree. To would-be predators, the African crested rat, Lophiomys imhausi, is trouble. 0. (Those that survive their encounters tend to give the rats a wide berth.) “We’re now just starting to unpack what makes this animal tick.”. Ashok Singh - November 25, 2020. 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. For their new paper, Dr. Weinstein and her team snared 25 rodents and filmed them in the lab. When offered cuttings of Acokanthera, some of the animals chomped on the bark then groomed it into their stripes. “Monogamy is very rare in mammals,” said Ricardo Mallarino, an evolutionary biologist at Princeton who wasn’t involved in the study. Then the animal coated its specialized hairs with the foul mixture. A pair of African crested rats. For a rodent that resembles a child who loves skunk and steel wool brushes. Facebook. The research team eventually managed to trap and observe 25 rats. 3 August 2011. Share page. Give them a chance and African crested rats will take nibbles from the branch of a poison arrow tree. A giant rodent known as the African crested rat is, despite its adorable appearance, deadly. The African crested rat is the only mammal known to sequester lethal plant toxins. Pinterest. Twitter. But the new paper adds weight to an idea described nearly a decade ago, and offers an early glimpse into the animals’ social lives. (Like all other rodents, they are incapable of vomiting.). “That’s not what they were hoping was in there.”, This Rat Covers Itself With Poison That Can Take Out an Elephant. “If a dog tried to attack them, the dogs would get sick and die. The rats don’t have to do this very often to remain poisonous. 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. By. The African crested rat (Lophiomys imhausi) is found in the north east of continent, and has long been thought to be poisonous: there have been several reports of … hide caption. The African crested rat was long thought to be solitary. The African crested rat gnaws on poisonous tree branches, then grooms its noxious spittle into its fur. 1. As if the idea of giant rats wasn’t freaky enough, a group of scientists have confirmed that the African crested rat, a rabbit-sized rodent, can lace its fur with poison … Published. 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. Sara Weinstein/Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute. Now researchers believe the creatures may live in bonded pairs, and their young may stay with them for a long time. Abstract. The African crested rat gnaws on poisonous tree branches, then grooms its noxious spittle into its fur. A new study discovered an unexpectedly rich social life. When ripe they are sweet but also slightly bitter. The discovery thrilled mammologists. That's been known since 2011, when a team of researchers reported that they had captured a crested rat and offered it a branch from the local Acokanthera schimperi tree, which is also known as the "poison arrow tree." The African crested rat's fuzzy fur has hairs loaded with a poison that can purportedly fell an elephant. Intriguingly, those flanks have rows of weird hairs. To better understand the ecology of this unusual poisonous mammal, we used camera … The scientists had assumed these rats lived solitary lives, since they're rarely seen and usually seen alone. They're much thicker than normal hairs, says Weinstein, "and they've got this really interesting honeycomb structure. 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. To find out if packing poison was common, the new research trapped 25 African crested rats to gather the largest sample size ever studied. 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. 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 may look adorable, but its fur is packed with enough poison to fell an elephant and just a few milligrams can kill a human. "Every once in a while they did it, but not always," says Weinstein, who says what triggers a rat to anoint itself remains a mystery. To would-be predators, the African crested rat, Lophiomys imhausi, is trouble. 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. First documented in the scientific literature in 1867, the rarely-glimpsed African crested rat “has captured so much interest for so long,” said Kwasi Wrensford, a behavioral ecologist at the University of California, Berkeley who wasn’t involved in the study. African crested rats are rabbit-size fuzzballs with endearing faces and a catlike purr. He and some colleagues are working to sequence the entire genome of African crested rats, to try to understand what it is about their biological make up that lets them casually gnaw on such a super-toxic plant. An African crested rat, Lophiomys imhausi, chews the poisonous Acokanthera tree and applies it to its fur 1. A poisonous rat that licks deadly toxins onto its own fur sounds like some kind of made-up nightmare species. Neighboring African hunters use the same substance to make elephant-grade poison … After reviewing almost 1,000 hours of … 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. A giant rodent known as the African crested rat is, despite its adorable appearance, deadly. 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. A 2011 paper proposed these large rodents sequester toxins from the poison arrow tree (Acokanthera schimperi). Still, he says, there are many unanswered questions that "scream for attention, most notably the precise chemistry and evolutionary history of crested rat saliva. The experiment proved that the African crested rats are the only mammals immune to poison arrow tree toxins and strengthened the 2011 study with a larger data set. Give them a chance and African crested rats will take nibbles from the branch of a poison arrow tree. Stephanie Higgins (It’s also called the “maned rat”.) It’s not for vitamin. The African crested rat is a rabbit-sized rodent that is the only known mammal to sequester plant toxins as a chemical defense. Weinstein and her colleagues wanted to confirm that this unusual behavior seen in a single rat was, in fact, widespread in this species. African crested rat uses poison trick to foil predators. But these rats turn out to be social, affectionate creatures. But now we're finally trying to get at what really goes on with this rat.". By. In the chase that ensued, some of the packets of poop ripped open, scattering scat all about. Share. "They're actually about the size of a small skunk," she says. About sharing. The African crested rat (Lophiomys imhausi) slathers its fur in a deadly toxin. 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. It’s not for nutrition. A poisonous rat that licks deadly toxins onto its own fur sounds like some kind of made-up nightmare species. It's felled more than a few hungry dogs over the years. 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. The crested rat actively transfers poison onto its fur in the form of cardiac glycosides. 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. In the Journal of Mammalogy, they say about half of them chewed on the tree branches and applied poison to their hair. It contains a toxin purportedly potent enough to kill an elephant, when applied to an arrow head. 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. Abstract. 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 imhausi) slathers its fur in a deadly toxin. But these creatures are real, and scientists now say they are also unexpectedly affectionate—at least with their own kind. The rats “very much have the personality of something that knows it’s poisonous,” says Sara Weinstein, a biologist at the University of Utah and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute who studies them. hide caption. For all their toxic toughness, though, the rats seem to enjoy surprisingly heartwarming private lives. The African crested rat - also known as the maned rat - is normally a rather unassuming and sluggish creature. The African crested rat is the only mammal known to sequester lethal plant toxins. The African crested rat is the only mammal known to sequester plant toxins for chemical defense. The scientists watched as the rat chewed on the bark, mixing it with saliva. But these creatures are real, and scientists now say they are also unexpectedly affectionate—at least with their own kind. 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. The world's only poisonous rodent, the maned rat borrows toxins from plants to fend off predators. 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. 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. 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.The study of the Credit: Sara B. Weinstein. A poisonous rat that licks deadly toxins onto its own fur sounds like some kind of made-up nightmare species. 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 better understand the ecology of this unusual poisonous mammal, we used camera … A poisonous rat that licks deadly toxins onto its own fur sounds like some kind of made-up nightmare species. WhatsApp. 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 rats turn out to be social, affectionate creatures. 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. The African crested rat's fuzzy fur has hairs loaded with a poison that can purportedly fell an elephant. 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. By Rebecca Morelle Science reporter, BBC News . 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. A microscope view of the hairs of the African crested rat, showing the honeycomb-like structure that allows them to hold the poison. 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. The African crested rat sequesters poisons from Acokanthera schimperi into specialized hairs, shown here alongside typical hairs. 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. 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. This Rat Covers Itself With Poison That Can Take Out an Elephant. The African crested rat sequesters poisons from Acokanthera schimperi into specialized hairs, shown here alongside typical hairs. 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. A close-up view of the African crested rat’s poison anointed hairs. 0. A poisonous rat that licks deadly toxins onto its own fur sounds like some kind of made-up nightmare species. To would-be predators, the African crested rat, Lophiomys imhausi, is trouble. Scientists still aren’t sure how often the rats anoint, or even how they tolerate the toxins themselves, especially if some of it ends up going down their gullets. It sure looked like two knew each other and wanted to be together. Photo by Sara B. Weinstein. “We put these two rats together in the enclosure and they started purring and grooming each other. But these creatures are real, and scientists now say they are also unexpectedly affectionate—at least with their own kind. If it applies to these rats, “that could be very exciting.” But more research will be needed to confirm the rats’ familial fidelity, he said. It’s not for nutrition. "This thing is unique," notes Ferguson. The African crested rat is the only mammal known to sequester plant toxins for chemical defense. To would-be predators, the African crested rat, Lophiomys imhausi, is trouble. WhatsApp. close. The African crested rat's fuzzy fur has hairs loaded with a poison that can purportedly fell an elephant. It's felled more than a few hungry dogs over the years. Lophiomys data is apparently precious to simians other than humans as well. 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. An undated photo provided by Stephanie Higgins shows an African crested rat. In 2011, a team of researchers described the heart-stopping toxins that the rats milked from Acokanthera schimperi, a tree traditionally harvested by hunters who would use its juices to lace their arrows. Copy link. 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 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.". African Crested Rat Can Poison Itself. "If a dog tried to attack them, the dogs would get sick and die. By talking with locals that still use the poison arrow tree sap on their arrows, researchers learned that the compounds are extremely stable. Give them a chance and African crested rats will take nibbles from the branch of a poison arrow tree. For a rodent that resembles a … The African crested rat was long thought to be solitary. (Image: The University of Utah) Looking like a cross between a ferret, a skunk, and a porcupine, the African crested rat … The New York Times SEPTEMBER 12, 2019 For Poison Dart Frogs, Markings Matter When It Comes to Survival An experiment found that white-striped frogs were less effective at scaring off predators than frogs with yellow stripes. Ashok Singh - November 25, 2020. Biologist Sara Weinstein and her colleagues saw African crested rats in Kenya chewing poisonous tree bark, and combing the toxin into specialized hairs on their coats. Folks who live in East Africa have long known the African-crested rat is poisonous. 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. Then they happened to trap a male and a female rat living in the same area. Credit: Stephanie Higgins. It also had an added benefit, as Weinstein explained in the press release. Rat-shaped little cows. 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. In sharp contrast to most of their skittish rodent kin, Lophiomys imhausi lumber about with the languidness of porcupines. "This latest paper is a very nice piece of work," says Jonathan Kingdon, a zoologist at the University of Oxford who led the team that first observed a rat chewing bark and applying poison. 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. People in East Africa have long known about the crested rat’s poisonous punch, which has felled many an overcurious dog. 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. Folks who live in East Africa have long known the African-crested rat is poisonous. For a rodent that resembles the love child of a skunk and a steel wool brush, the African crested rat carries itself with a surprising amount of swagger. 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. The African crested rat is listed as IUCN species of least concern, but there’s little actual data on the animals. 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 … 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. “The monkeys, I think, were equally disappointed,” Dr. Weinstein said. But these rats turn out to be social, affectionate creatures. From that point forward, if they trapped an animal in one location, they'd set up other traps to try to trap more—and they often did. To would-be predators, the African crested rat, Lophiomys imhausi, is trouble. All plant parts contain acovenoside A and ouabaïne, which are cardiotonic glycosides. Pinterest. A porcupine-like rat turns its quills into lethal weapons by coating them with a plant toxin, a new study says. Like a skunk, these creatures have black and white markings that may serve as a warning. It’s not for nutrition. 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. They also wanted to check to see if this rat's health really was unaffected by this poison. They dwell in forested areas on the eastern side of the continent, and people there have long known … But its poison is not its own. The African crested rat sequesters poisons from Acokanthera schimperi into specialized hairs, shown here alongside typical hairs. The animals don't look at all like a typical city rat. hide caption. "A lot of that is fluff. Sara Weinstein/Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute Microscopic image of the specialized hairs that the African crested rat anoints with poison from Acokanthera schimperi. 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