Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New octopuses equipped for the cold

In 2009 came the news that all octopuses (not just specialized varieties like the deadly blue-ringed octopus) have venom. Now Bryan Fry, the University of Melbourne (Australia) specialist who made that discovery, reports that four new species of octopus from Antarctic waters sport a previously unknown adaptation. The enzymes in cephalopod venom lose their effectiveness at cold temperatures, but the new species employ poorly-understood "biochemical tricks" to keep their venom potent at subzero temperatures. There are "new small proteins in the venom with very intriguing activities, which may be potentially useful in drug design," Fry says.

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