“Monogamy is very rare in mammals,” said Ricardo Mallarino, an evolutionary biologist at Princeton who wasn’t involved in the study. The African crested rat is the only mammal known to sequester lethal plant toxins. Pinterest. Microscopic image of the specialized hairs that the African crested rat anoints with poison from Acokanthera schimperi. 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. They also wanted to check to see if this rat's health really was unaffected by this poison. Rat-shaped little cows. Share page. To better understand the ecology of this unusual poisonous mammal, we used camera … The crested rat actively transfers poison onto its fur in the form of cardiac glycosides. The African crested rat gnaws on poisonous tree branches, then grooms its noxious spittle into its fur. 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. But these creatures are real, and scientists now say they are also unexpectedly affectionate—at least with their own kind. 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. 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. When ripe they are sweet but also slightly bitter. An undated photo provided by Stephanie Higgins shows an African crested rat. Now researchers believe the creatures may live in bonded pairs, and their young may stay with them for a long time. 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. A porcupine-like rat turns its quills into lethal weapons by coating them with a plant toxin, a new study says. For a rodent that resembles a … To would-be predators, the African crested rat, Lophiomys imhausi, is trouble. 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.". 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. 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 - also known as the maned rat - is normally a rather unassuming and sluggish creature. But these creatures are real, and scientists now say they are also unexpectedly affectionate—at least with their own kind. 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 crested rat actively transfers poison onto its fur in the form of cardiac glycosides. 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. Stephanie Higgins It's felled more than a few hungry dogs over the years. 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. Neighboring African hunters use the same substance to make elephant-grade poison … 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 … 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. They are pretty fuzzy." The African crested rat sequesters poisons from Acokanthera schimperi into specialized hairs, shown here alongside typical 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. (It’s also called the “maned rat”.) 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. Its fruit is edible, and is eaten as a famine food. An African crested rat, Lophiomys imhausi, chews the poisonous Acokanthera tree and applies it to its fur 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. 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. 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. 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. To would-be predators, the African crested rat, Lophiomys imhausi, is trouble. The researchers found evidence that some of the male and female rats might go steady, or even jointly care for their young, while in captivity. 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. The African crested rat (Lophiomys imhausi) slathers its fur in a deadly toxin. The African crested rat was long thought to be solitary. By Rebecca Morelle Science reporter, BBC News . 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. “We’re now just starting to unpack what makes this animal tick.”. But the new paper adds weight to an idea described nearly a decade ago, and offers an early glimpse into the animals’ social lives. 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.". By. To would-be predators, the African crested rat, Lophiomys imhausi, is trouble. 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. 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 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. Facebook. The African crested rat sequesters poisons from Acokanthera schimperi into specialized hairs, shown here alongside typical hairs. 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. A poisonous rat that licks deadly toxins onto its own fur sounds like some kind of made-up nightmare species. "If a dog tried to attack them, the dogs would get sick and die. After reviewing almost 1,000 hours of … The African crested rat is listed as IUCN species of least concern, but there’s little actual data on the animals. Neighboring African hunters use the same substance to make elephant-grade poison … "They're actually about the size of a small skunk," she says. A porcupine-like rat turns its quills into lethal weapons by coating them with a plant toxin, a new study says. WhatsApp. 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 … (Those that survive their encounters tend to give the rats a wide berth.) African crested rat uses poison trick to foil predators. hide caption. A new study discovered an unexpectedly rich social life. 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. When the animal is threatened, it flares its fur to expose black and white stripes on its flanks. 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. But its poison is not its own. The African crested rat is the only mammal known to sequester plant toxins for chemical defense. But its poison is not its own. Abstract. 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. Give them an opportunity, and African crested rats will take nibbles from the department of a poison arrow tree. 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. In the chase that ensued, some of the packets of poop ripped open, scattering scat all about. "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. For all their toxic toughness, though, the rats seem to enjoy surprisingly heartwarming private lives. It's felled more than a few hungry dogs over the years. Give them a chance and African crested rats will take nibbles from the branch of a poison arrow tree. The African crested rat is the only mammal known to sequester plant toxins for chemical defense. The African crested rat sequesters poisons from Acokanthera schimperi into specialized hairs, shown here alongside typical hairs. By. But these creatures are real, and scientists now say they are also unexpectedly affectionate—at least with their own kind. In the Journal of Mammalogy, they say about half of them chewed on the tree branches and applied poison to their hair. 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. (Image: The University of Utah) Looking like a cross between a ferret, a skunk, and a porcupine, the African crested rat … Then the animal coated its specialized hairs with the foul mixture. But these rats turn out to be social, affectionate creatures. A giant rodent known as the African crested rat is, despite its adorable appearance, deadly. Sara Weinstein/Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute People in East Africa have long known about the crested rat’s poisonous punch, which has felled many an overcurious dog. The animals don't look at all like a typical city rat. A poisonous rat that licks deadly toxins onto its own fur sounds like some kind of made-up nightmare species. A pair of African crested rats. The African crested rat is the only mammal known to sequester lethal plant toxins. “That’s not what they were hoping was in there.”, This Rat Covers Itself With Poison That Can Take Out an Elephant. 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. The African crested rat is a rabbit-sized rodent that is the only known mammal to sequester plant toxins as a chemical defense. It’s not for nutrition. For a rodent that resembles a child who loves skunk and steel wool brushes. 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. 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. close. The discovery thrilled mammologists. 0. 0. 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 … A giant rodent known as the African crested rat is, despite its adorable appearance, deadly. 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 ritual transforms the rats into the world’s only known toxic rodents, and ranks them among the few mammals that borrow poisons from plants. Twitter. 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. 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. Give them an opportunity, and African crested rats will take nibbles from the department of a poison arrow tree. hide caption. But these rats turn out to be social, affectionate creatures. It’s not for vitamin. "As mammologists and biologists, and humans in general, we're obsessed with rare things. ", Sara Weinstein/Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute. Credit: Stephanie Higgins. A close-up view of the African crested rat’s poison anointed hairs. This Rat Covers Itself With Poison That Can Take Out an Elephant. The research team eventually managed to trap and observe 25 rats. Sara Weinstein/Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute. Abstract. The scientists had assumed these rats lived solitary lives, since they're rarely seen and usually seen alone. Weinstein and her colleagues wanted to confirm that this unusual behavior seen in a single rat was, in fact, widespread in this species. For their new paper, Dr. Weinstein and her team snared 25 rodents and filmed them in the lab. All plant parts contain acovenoside A and ouabaïne, which are cardiotonic glycosides. "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. Folks who live in East Africa have long known the African-crested rat is poisonous. Share. Folks who live in East Africa have long known the African-crested rat is poisonous. African crested rats are rabbit-size fuzzballs with endearing faces and a catlike purr. 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. A poisonous rat that licks deadly toxins onto its own fur sounds like some kind of made-up nightmare species. It sure looked like two knew each other and wanted to be together. ", Ferguson says this rat has long been almost "mythical, in that it's eluded our understanding, and there's been speculation. Photo by Sara B. Weinstein. African Crested Rat Can Poison Itself. It also had an added benefit, as Weinstein explained in the press release. When offered cuttings of Acokanthera, some of the animals chomped on the bark then groomed it into their stripes. Twitter. The African crested rat's fuzzy fur has hairs loaded with a poison that can purportedly fell an elephant. 3 August 2011. 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 new study discovered an unexpectedly rich social life. “The monkeys, I think, were equally disappointed,” Dr. Weinstein said. To would-be predators, the African crested rat, Lophiomys imhausi, is trouble. 1. 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. But these rats turn out to be social, affectionate creatures. About sharing. Ashok Singh - November 25, 2020. 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. 1. African Crested Rat Can Poison Itself. By talking with locals that still use the poison arrow tree sap on their arrows, researchers learned that the compounds are extremely stable. The African crested rat (Lophiomys imhausi) slathers its fur in a deadly toxin. 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. It contains a toxin purportedly potent enough to kill an elephant, when applied to an arrow head. To better understand the ecology of this unusual poisonous mammal, we used camera … The African crested rat gnaws on poisonous tree branches, then grooms its noxious spittle into its fur. Published. Like a skunk, these creatures have black and white markings that may serve as a warning. A poisonous rat that licks deadly toxins onto its own fur sounds like some kind of made-up nightmare species. But now we're finally trying to get at what really goes on with this rat.". Give them a chance and African crested rats will take nibbles from the branch of a poison arrow tree. 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. hide caption. Then they happened to trap a male and a female rat living in the same area. The bark, wood and roots of Acokanthera schimperi are used as an important ingredient of arrow poison in Africa. But these creatures are real, and scientists now say they are also unexpectedly affectionate—at least with their own kind. Credit: Sara B. Weinstein. 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. The rats don’t have to do this very often to remain poisonous. 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 It’s not for nutrition. A 2011 paper proposed these large rodents sequester toxins from the poison arrow tree (Acokanthera schimperi). Pinterest. The African crested rat was long thought to be solitary. The world's only poisonous rodent, the maned rat borrows toxins from plants to fend off predators. 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. Lophiomys data is apparently precious to simians other than humans as well. Copy link. In various parts of East Africa lives a black-and-white striped rodent, the African crested rat, Lophiomys imhausi. In sharp contrast to most of their skittish rodent kin, Lophiomys imhausi lumber about with the languidness of porcupines. They're much thicker than normal hairs, says Weinstein, "and they've got this really interesting honeycomb structure. 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. “If a dog tried to attack them, the dogs would get sick and die. It’s not for nutrition. 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 "A lot of that is fluff. (Like all other rodents, they are incapable of vomiting.). 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