Natures wonders: assassin bugs many poisons (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Monday, February 26, 2018, 14:04 (722 days ago) @ David Turell

These bugs produce more than one toxin, each with a purpose:

"The name of the bugs – which covers about 300 species clustered into the family Reduviidae – already implies that they are not to be trifled with. New research led by molecular bioscientist Andrew Walker from the University of Queensland, however, has revealed that they are far, far more unpleasant than previously thought.

"In a paper published in the journal Nature Communications, Walker and his colleagues use imaging data to show that the assassin bug has not one but three distinct venom glands. More, it produces two entirely separate types of venom – one to conquer prey, and the other to repel predators.

“'We discovered that assassin bugs actually make two different venoms, each containing a unique cocktail of over 100 different toxins,” Walker says.

"The way an assassin bug feeds is the stuff of B-grade science fiction. Using its trademark strong proboscis – otherwise known as a rostrum – the bug impales its prey and then injects venom-laced saliva. This serves two gruesome purposes: first, it paralyses the victim, and then it liquefies its internal organs, allowing the assassin bug to suck it all out.


"It’s long been noted that handling a bug in a way that makes it uneasy is a foolish thing to do. An assassin bug bite produces intense, localised pain and, eventually, a small patch of dead tissue.

"Until Walker’s team went to work, it was assumed that the discomfort arose because the bug injected the same venom it uses to Magimix its food. It turns out the assumption was incorrect.

"The researchers discovered that the bugs produce two quite different venoms and apply either depending on the situation.

"The hunting venom is produced in one spot, an area dubbed the anterior main gland. The defensive alternative is produced behind it, in the posterior main gland. Both glands, plus a third auxiliary one, converge on a structure called the hilus, described as a set of muscle-controlled mixing chambers.


"The researchers say that as far as is known, the capacity to produce two venoms with different functions is an evolutionary adaptation not found in any other animal."

Comment: What is always the issue about powerful poisons produced by animals is how was it evolved? What must be produced is the poison, or in this case poisons, and also self-protection for the producer. Can't be step-wise, but developed together. Not by chance.

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