Snail Eats Fish After Drugging Them

Cone snail's toxin could teach us a thing or two
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 25, 2015 6:32 AM CST
Updated Jan 25, 2015 7:30 AM CST

(Newser) – It may be small and slow, but the geographic cone snail packs a wallop. The creature eats fish after paralyzing them with a toxin, researchers find. When its prey swims by, it sends out a poisonous cloud that's packed with enough insulin to make the fish's blood sugar drop, National Geographic reports. That leaves the prey pretty out of it: "It looks like the fish is completely narced," says an expert. But the snail isn't done yet. Next, it pulls the fish toward it with a so-called "false mouth" that looks like a cape. Then, it uses more toxins to fully paralyze the fish.

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Geographic cone snails are so poisonous that they've killed at least 30 humans. But they could also indirectly help us, Mother Nature Network reports. Studying the insulin they use could help us learn about our own bodies' handling of blood sugar, offering potential aid against diabetes. What's more, some conotoxins, elements of the snail's venom, can zero in on certain cells, an ability we could perhaps harness to fight diseases like cancer. Conotoxins also have painkilling effects, among other health uses. (Learn how a newly identified snail is involved with the fight for gay marriage.)

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