The Unlikely Relationship Between Opossums and Snake Venom
Opossums are fascinating creatures that are well-known for their ability to resist the toxic effects of venom from venomous snakes, such as rattlesnakes and coral snakes. While opossums are not completely immune to snake venom, they do possess some unique biological mechanisms that make them more resistant to it than many other animals.
One such mechanism is the opossum’s ability to produce a protein called Lys49-phospholipase A2, which is thought to bind to and neutralize the venom of certain types of snakes. Additionally, opossums have a lower body temperature than many other mammals, which can slow down the spread of venom through their bodies.
Another interesting fact is that opossums have a unique response to the bite of a venomous snake. When an opossum is bitten by a venomous snake, it will often go into a state of shock, which can temporarily lower its metabolism and slow down the spread of venom through its body. This shock response can give the opossum time to produce antibodies to the snake venom, which can help to neutralize its toxic effects.
While opossums are more resistant to snake venom than many other animals, the degree of resistance can vary depending on a number of factors, including the type and amount of venom injected, the size and age of the opossum, and its overall health and condition. It’s important to note that opossums are not completely immune to snake venom, and can still be killed by a sufficiently large dose of venom.
Despite these limitations, the abilities of opossums to resist snake venom have been studied by scientists with the goal of developing new treatments for snake bites in humans. In particular, researchers have identified a protein in opossum blood called Didelphis marsupialis serum protein (DM43), which has been shown to bind to rattlesnake venom and neutralize its toxic effects. Scientists are currently exploring the potential of this protein as a treatment for snake bites in humans.
In conclusion, opossums are fascinating animals with a unique ability to resist the toxic effects of snake venom. Research into the biology of opossums and their ability to resist snake venom has the potential to lead to new treatments for snake bites in humans, which could save many lives in areas where venomous snakes are common.