It turns out that a hairy and scary looking spider with fangs to rival Dracula has venom that can kill humans but also has the potential to cure cancer. When researchers exposed components of the venom to breast cancer cells, they died.
At first glance the stonefish doesn’t look like a speedster. They’re bulky and just sit there like a… stone. Well their body does anyway. Their mouth is another story. It’s designed to move independently of the rest of the body, which is all a part of its plan.
Due to its awesome camouflage and tendency to sit statue still, fish don’t see the stonefish when they swim past until it’s too late. What looks like a harmless rock or a cluster of marine algae can turn into a gaping mouth that comes out of nowhere and sucks them in whole.
One of the defining characteristics of a fish is scales, right? That’s what most people think. Someone forgot to tell that to the stonefish. They’re a very un-fish-like fish.
They look like a stone, they waddle rather than swim and they can live out of the water for over 2 hours. They also have skin not scales, layers of keratinised skin (same stuff as our fingernails).
As we know from our previous post, stonefish attract marine plants to grow on them by lathering themselves in a chemical they produce, which acts like a fertiliser. It’s all a part of their strategy to blend into their environment and let their prey come to them.
But all gardens need maintenance and the deadly one this fish grows is no different.
It has the bragging rights as the deadliest fish in the sea, with venomous spines that are lethal. The upside for any fish is that it doesn’t use these spines for hunting. The downside, it’s a master of camouflage.
As the name suggests it looks like…well a rock or stone that blends perfectly into its surroundings. So even if you swam or crawled past the stonefish you wouldn’t see it.
One of the keys to their success are pimple-like glands, called tubercles that cover their bodies. These glands produce and secrete a white milky substance called crynotoxin (meaning toxic skin) that oozes over the body of the stonefish.
This acts like a fertiliser attracting marine plants to grow on it BUT acts as an anti-foullant discouraging animals from settling on their skin.
Here’s the lowdown on TTX. If you’ve been following our blogs you would have heard about Tetradotoxin (TTX). If not, it’s a kick-ass toxin that is manufactured by bacteria in a range of animals, giving them super powers. Powers that make it super toxic to taste or powers that helps them to dish out death. The tiny Blue-ringed Octopus, uses it to paralyse its prey.
When it comes to toxicity, size doesn’t matter. You heard right, … size DOES NOT matter! Enter the Blue-ringed Octopus, a lightweight, tipping the scales at a paltry 25grams. What it lacks in size, it makes up for with its fearsome reputation as one of the world’s deadliest predators.
So what type of weapon, could a tiny animal, with all it’s body bits shove into a sack on its head, possibly posses to make it so scary? Spit. Serious? Yep you heard it right… also known by the fancy name saliva.
But people… this is no average spit and it’s not the type that you want to be playing tonsil hockey with. It’s laced with tetradotoxin (TTX) a deadly neurotoxin that paralyses prey. And Blue-rings are so badass that they get other animals (bacteria) to make the TTX for them, which they happily do, hanging out in the Blue-rings salivary glands.
Now consider this… around 400ug of TTX is found in an adult Blue-ringed Octopus. The Lethal Dose factor for TTX is 5ug per kg of person. So a 70kg adult would need around 350ug to send them to their grave. That’s around 1/1000th of a poppy seed! Can you even begin to imagine how teeny tiny that is?
Do Octopus eat themselves? That’s the question that Professor Jamie Seymour (our brains trust) was faced with during his radio interview on ZINC 102.7 yesterday. Listen to the fascinating interview as Jamie answers this bizarre question while sharing his love and knowledge of this extraordinary group of animals and the weird and wonderful talents they have.
The Nature of Science (TNOS) showcases scientific research using our warped sense of humour, brains trust and creativity. See behind the microscopes, beakers and re-breathers as we dig a little deeper into the research and discovery of the natural world. If you want to take a walk on the wild side dust off your lab coats and jump on board as our talented team of scientists and world-class cinematographers use time-lapse and high-speed footage sequences to showcase science and nature like never before.
NEW BLOG - Squid skin inspiring solar and camouflage design
Squids and their relatives are known as ‘chameleons of the sea’ and for good reason. Their freakishly fast colour-changing skills make the land chameleon blush with embarrassment.
Scientists have been trying to replicate this colour-changing process for what seems a gazillion years to explore its use in human applications and it seems… the jig may be up.
Read the full blog here:
Our resident mermaid found herself in her happy place and was lucky enough to join the Nutty Professor and the team at Biopixel for some filming at Lodestone Reef off the coast of Townsville. He she's capturing the colour of the staghorn corals. ...