The Grasshopper Mouse Hunts Scorpions, Turns Scorpion Venom into Painkiller | Smart News | Smithsonian
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The Grasshopper Mouse Hunts Scorpions, Turns Scorpion Venom into Painkiller

Evolutionary adaptations let this little mouse hunt scorpions

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Tiny little grasshopper mice are scorpion-eating machines. These carnivores from the southwestern United States and Mexico hunt and kill bark scorpions, which, like other scorpions, packs a potent venom evolved to fight off predators. So how does the grasshopper mouse make the little arthropod its meal without getting stung in the process?

It turns out, it doesn't. Grasshopper mice definitely get stung by their prey. Yet for some reason the scorpion's potent venom doesn't kill them. According to a team of researchers lead by the University of Texas at Austin's Ashlee Rowe, grasshopper mice have some evolutionary tricks of their own. They aren't only resistant to the venom of bark scorpions; the mouses' brains have actually evolved to use the venom as a painkiller.

Over at the Guardian last year, when the study first came out, Mo Costandi wrote about the details of what's going on in the mouse's brain. It's a useful chemical trick, the impressive results of which you can see in the Michigan State University video above, showing the grasshopper mouse shrugging off multiple stings from the potent bark scorpion. 

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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