Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Giant rat zaps predators with poisonous hair

R.U.H -- Rodents of Unusual Hair!

Shades of Princess Bride!

Researchers have discovered a rat that poisons its attackers with foul hair. Truth is definitely stranger than fiction! Read on, and fear not!

To make its poison fur, the rat — which averages about 14 inches (36 cm) long — chews the bark of the A. schimperi and licks itself to store the resulting poisonous spit in specially adapted hairs. This behavior is hardwired into the animal's brain, similar to nitpicking behavior of birds or self-bathing of cats, the researchers suspect.

"What is quite clear in this animal is that it is hardwired to find the poison, it is hardwired to chew it and it is hardwired to apply it to the small area of hairs," Kingdon said. The animals apply the poisonous spit only to the specialized hairs on a small strip along its back. When threatened, the rat arches its back and uses specially adapted muscles to slick back its hair and expose the strip of poison...

The hairs themselves are specially structured to absorb the poison, Kingdon found. Their outer layer is full of large holes, like a pasta strainer, and the inside is full of straight fibers that wick up liquids. "There is no other hair that is known to science that is remotely structured like these hairs," Kingdon said.

It is unknown why the rat doesn't die from chewing the poison, though it could be resistant somehow. "The rats should drop dead every time they chew this stuff but they are not," Kingdon said. "We don't have the slightest idea how that could be done."

It's because they are R.U.S. er, H.! -- No explanation necessary; they just are! So carry your sword, fair denizens of Florin!

p.s. R.U.H., rodents of unusual hair-- kinda reminds me of Donald Trump!

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