I knew Australia was home to 21 of the 25 most dangerous (i.e. venomous) snakes in the world. That’s bad enough. Then there’s the platypus:
“… a duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed, egg-laying aquatic creature native to Australia. If its appearance alone somehow fails to impress, the male of the species is also one of the world’s few venomous mammals! Equipped with sharp stingers on the heels of its hind feet, the male platypus can deliver a strong toxic blow to any approaching foe.”
Miss D. says the platypus is proof that God has a sense of humor. No word on what might happen if Australian scientists ever cross a platypus with one or more of those 21 poisonous snakes. They’d probably do it on principle, then barbecue the result! (I share their somewhat irreverent southern hemisphere heritage, so I understand the blokes, y’see.)
Even with that background, I had to do a double-take when (courtesy of a link provided by Australian reader Andrew) I read this report.
Queensland researchers have discovered the toxin in the infamous Gympie-Gympie tree causes similar pain to the sting of a scorpion or bite of a spider.
The pain of the tree’s sting has been compared to being burned with acid and can last months in serious cases.
UQ researcher Irina Vetter said she was intrigued by the plant’s dangerous sting, and wanted to find out why it caused such a strong reaction.
Her team discovered the toxin produced by the tree and delivered by small needle-like growths was a neurotoxin very similar to those found in spiders and cone snails.
“The chemical structure is very different but its properties are very similar to how animal venoms cause pain,” Professor Vetter said.
“That was very surprising because to my knowledge it’s the first time a plant has evolved a similar molecule mechanism to an animal to inflict pain.
“You could probably say this is the first venomous plant.”
There’s more at the link, including a close-up photograph of the “needles” that cover the plant’s stem and leaves. Brrrrr!
All I can say is, I’m glad the worst the USA can do is poison ivy. That’s bad enough. To have a plant that literally injects you with animal-like venom . . . with all the other things that bite, claw, envenomate and sting on the Australian continent, isn’t that adding insult to injury?
Oh, well. At least Australian beer doesn’t bite or sting – not when it’s going down, anyway! However, the following morning might be different. I provide that warning in order to Foster international relations, of course . . .