Matthew and Ashlee Rowe
Grasshopper mouse chowing on a bark scorpion
Take two scorpions and call me in the morning!
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science,
Playing Dr. Feelgood ... for mice!
Of all the kinds of scorpions in the U.S., the bark scorpion of the Southwest is the most venomous. One of its painful stings can be life-threatening to animals. Yeah, like us.
But not to the grasshopper mouse. These cute little pink or brown rodents can gobble up the deadly scorpions. Why don't the mice die? That's what biologists in Texas and Michigan wanted to know. Is this the rodent equivalent of people who put Tiger sauce on everything? —Or is something else going on?
Their investigation showed something unusual happening to the mice neurons, after a scorpion snack. Usually, a sting causes a victim's neurons to send pain signals to the brain. But that doesn't happen in grasshopper mice! They have special amino acids that bind to the venom, blocking the neuron from sending a pain SOS. Further studies showed that by blocking that signal, venom actually relieves mouse pain.
So. Stubbed your toe? Eat a scorpion! But only if you're a grasshopper mouse. Everyone else? Don't.
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The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.