To would-be predators, the African crested rat, Lophiomys imhausi, is trouble. Facebook. An African crested rat, Lophiomys imhausi, chews the poisonous Acokanthera tree and applies it to its fur A giant rodent known as the African crested rat is, despite its adorable appearance, deadly. By Rebecca Morelle Science reporter, BBC News . A porcupine-like rat turns its quills into lethal weapons by coating them with a plant toxin, a new study says. Then they happened to trap a male and a female rat living in the same area. 0. 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. Sara Weinstein/Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute 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. To find out if packing poison was common, the new research trapped 25 African crested rats to gather the largest sample size ever studied. By talking with locals that still use the poison arrow tree sap on their arrows, researchers learned that the compounds are extremely stable. When offered cuttings of Acokanthera, some of the animals chomped on the bark then groomed it into their stripes. The African crested rat is a rabbit-sized rodent that is the only known mammal to sequester plant toxins as a chemical defense. For a rodent that resembles a … After reviewing almost 1,000 hours of … African crested rat uses poison trick to foil predators. When ripe they are sweet but also slightly bitter. The African crested rat's fuzzy fur has hairs loaded with a poison that can purportedly fell an elephant. The African crested rat was long thought to be solitary. 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 Ashok Singh - November 25, 2020. "A lot of that is fluff. 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. 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. A poisonous rat that licks deadly toxins onto its own fur sounds like some kind of made-up nightmare species. They are pretty fuzzy." Microscopic image of the specialized hairs that the African crested rat anoints with poison from Acokanthera schimperi. 0. 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. It's felled more than a few hungry dogs over the years. But its poison is not its own. ", Sara Weinstein/Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute. 1. 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. 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. Neighboring African hunters use the same substance to make elephant-grade poison … The rats don’t have to do this very often to remain poisonous. To better understand the ecology of this unusual poisonous mammal, we used camera … “Monogamy is very rare in mammals,” said Ricardo Mallarino, an evolutionary biologist at Princeton who wasn’t involved in the study. Stephanie Higgins It’s not for vitamin. The African crested rat's fuzzy fur has hairs loaded with a poison that can purportedly fell an elephant. 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. The African crested rat gnaws on poisonous tree branches, then grooms its noxious spittle into its fur. The African crested rat sequesters poisons from Acokanthera schimperi into specialized hairs, shown here alongside typical hairs. To would-be predators, the African crested rat, Lophiomys imhausi, is trouble. The African crested rat is listed as IUCN species of least concern, but there’s little actual data on the animals. It’s not for nutrition. Neighboring African hunters use the same substance to make elephant-grade poison … Facebook. 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. The African crested rat is the only mammal known to sequester lethal plant toxins. (Those that survive their encounters tend to give the rats … hide caption. Abstract. Published. 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. ", Ferguson says this rat has long been almost "mythical, in that it's eluded our understanding, and there's been speculation. Like a skunk, these creatures have black and white markings that may serve as a warning. Twitter. They're much thicker than normal hairs, says Weinstein, "and they've got this really interesting honeycomb structure. But its poison is not its own. 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. 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. 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 2011 paper proposed these large rodents sequester toxins from the poison arrow tree (Acokanthera schimperi). Sara Weinstein/Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute. It contains a toxin purportedly potent enough to kill an elephant, when applied to an arrow head. When the animal is threatened, it flares its fur to expose black and white stripes on its flanks. It’s not for nutrition. A microscope view of the hairs of the African crested rat, showing the honeycomb-like structure that allows them to hold the poison. It’s not for nutrition. An undated photo provided by Stephanie Higgins shows an African crested rat. "They're actually about the size of a small skunk," she says. (Image: The University of Utah) Looking like a cross between a ferret, a skunk, and a porcupine, the African crested rat … 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. They also wanted to check to see if this rat's health really was unaffected by this poison. 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." A close-up view of the African crested rat’s poison anointed hairs. Folks who live in East Africa have long known the African-crested rat is poisonous. Pinterest. 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. For all their toxic toughness, though, the rats seem to enjoy surprisingly heartwarming private lives. Folks who live in East Africa have long known the African-crested rat is poisonous. But these rats turn out to be social, affectionate creatures. But the new paper adds weight to an idea described nearly a decade ago, and offers an early glimpse into the animals’ social lives. But these creatures are real, and scientists now say they are also unexpectedly affectionate—at least with their own kind. 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 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 … 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 ritual transforms the rats into the world’s only known toxic rodents, and ranks them among the few mammals that borrow poisons from plants. "This thing is unique," notes Ferguson. They dwell in forested areas on the eastern side of the continent, and people there have long known … By. “If a dog tried to attack them, the dogs would get sick and die. (Like all other rodents, they are incapable of vomiting.). 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 monkeys, I think, were equally disappointed,” Dr. Weinstein said. 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. The African crested rat is the only mammal known to sequester plant toxins for chemical defense. 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. 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 African crested rat (Lophiomys imhausi) slathers its fur in a deadly toxin. The scientists watched as the rat chewed on the bark, mixing it with saliva. To would-be predators, the African crested rat, Lophiomys imhausi, is trouble. 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. 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. A pair of African crested rats. Share page. 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 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. African crested rats are rabbit-size fuzzballs with endearing faces and a catlike purr. The African crested rat (Lophiomys imhausi) slathers its fur in a deadly toxin. The African crested rat was long thought to be solitary. ", The African crested rat sequesters poisons from Acokanthera schimperi into specialized hairs, shown here alongside typical hairs. But these creatures are real, and scientists now say they are also unexpectedly affectionate—at least with their own kind. Intriguingly, those flanks have rows of weird hairs. The African crested rat is the only mammal known to sequester plant toxins for chemical defense. Credit: Stephanie Higgins. Then the animal coated its specialized hairs with the foul mixture. 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. It sure looked like two knew each other and wanted to be together. “We put these two rats together in the enclosure and they started purring and grooming each other. The African crested rat gnaws on poisonous tree branches, then grooms its noxious spittle into its fur. 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 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. But these rats turn out to be social, affectionate creatures. 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. 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. A new study discovered an unexpectedly rich social life. 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 bark, wood and roots of Acokanthera schimperi are used as an important ingredient of arrow poison in Africa. 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. A poisonous rat that licks deadly toxins onto its own fur sounds like some kind of made-up nightmare species. Credit: Sara B. Weinstein. Share. About sharing. A porcupine-like rat turns its quills into lethal weapons by coating them with a plant toxin, a new study says. 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. 3 August 2011. 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 … 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. Give them an opportunity, and African crested rats will take nibbles from the department of a poison arrow tree. The scientists had assumed these rats lived solitary lives, since they're rarely seen and usually seen alone. The African crested rat is the only mammal known to sequester lethal plant toxins. 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 … But these creatures are real, and scientists now say they are also unexpectedly affectionate—at least with their own kind. In sharp contrast to most of their skittish rodent kin, Lophiomys imhausi lumber about with the languidness of porcupines. But now we're finally trying to get at what really goes on with this rat.". close. 1. Rat-shaped little cows. 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. Photo by Sara B. Weinstein. A giant rodent known as the African crested rat is, despite its adorable appearance, deadly. "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. A poisonous rat that licks deadly toxins onto its own fur sounds like some kind of made-up nightmare species. But these rats turn out to be social, affectionate creatures. 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