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Re: Pitohui poison: from beetles?

Here's more on the Pitohui poison research:


From the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences web site:
Origin of a Natural Poison
A potential dietary source for the toxins found in poison-dart frogs and passerine birds has been identified. Jack Dumbacher from the California Academy of Sciences and colleagues found deadly batrachotoxins in Melyrid beetles of New Guinea. These beetles are eaten by birds, which accumulate the toxins in their skins. Neither birds nor frogs appear to produce the toxins by themselves and are assumed to obtain them through diet. Batrachotoxins, which are more potent than curare, are a defense mechanism against parasites and predators. Acting on the suggestions of local New Guinean naturalists, the team investigated Melyrid beetles of the genus Choresine as a potential toxin source. Contact with these beetles is known to cause facial irritation. Their laboratory tests showed that the small beetles are a highly concentrated source of several types of batrachotoxins. Closely related Choresine beetles were also found digested in one of the New Guinean birds. The team suggests that Choresine beetles are the most likely source of the toxin in New Guinean birds, and relatives in the family Melyridae may similarly supply Colombian frogs. Read a report here: http://www.pnas.org/misc/highlights.shtml#HL5

From Science Magazine's Science Now Web feature:
Toxic Bugs
Melyrid beetles may be the long-sought source of neurotoxins in the skins of poisonous birds and frogs, according to a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In New Guinea, the beetles and Pitohui and Ifrita birds share the name "nanisani" because they cause numbness when handled. Taking a cue from this link, the researchers found batrachotoxins in these beetles, which they suspect are eaten by the birds as well as by Colombian poison-dart frogs that have similar toxins in their skin. View story here: http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/

The journal Nature will run an article about Jack's research in the "News and Views" section of this week's journal, which will come out on Thursday.

New Scientist will run an article about Jack's research next week (the new issue comes out on Wednesday).

Science News will also run an article about Jack's research next week (the new issue comes out on Saturday).

Dave Perlman from the San Francisco Chronicle has written an article that will run sometime in the next week.

Chemistry World and Chemical and Engineering News will both cover Jack's research in upcoming issues.

The German news organization, Wissenschaft, ran a story about Jack's research yesterday.

"Dino Guy" Ralph W. Miller III
Docent at the California Academy of Sciences
proud member of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology