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Moose Spit is Antifungal

Moose may use their antifungal saliva to keep the fungus on their favorite foods in check

smithsonian.com

Moose "kind of salivate a lot," says York Univeristy biologist Dawn Bazely, "They slobber around." With the help of the Toronto Zoo, Bazely has been studying the properties of this abundant moose spit. So far, Bazely has found that moose spit (and European reindeer spit) has anti-fungal propertiessays the CBC

Antifungal saliva is helpful for moose, says the CBC, because some of the plants they eat use fungi as a self-protection mechanism. Too much fungus in their food can make moose sick.

The spit helps the animals retaliate. For her research, Bazely applied moose drool to samples of grass--grass that usually harbors toxic fungus. Within a day the drool-covered grass was producing fewer toxins. According to a statement, though, the researchers are still not surely exactly why.

According to the CBC, Bazely and her colleagues also aren't sure exactly how the moose might use their antifungal spit. It's not strong enough to neutralize the toxins as they eat them, but rather suppresses future fungal growth. The researchers speculate that the antifungal spit might help moose keep fungus levels in their home turf in check. 

Moose aren't the only ones with fancy spit, though. Human spit also has antifungal properties. On top of that, in 2008, scientists from the Netherlands found that human saliva contains a wound healing compound that could be helpful for people with foot ulcers. "There’s a medicinal value in saliva that’s not appreciated," saliva expert David Wong told Boston.com.

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About Shannon Palus

Shannon Palus is a science writer, and a researcher for Popular Science. Her work has appeared in Discover, Slate, Ars Technica, and elsewhere. She is based in Philadelphia.

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