Discovery of weaponized insulin produced by predatory sea snails may help unlock secrets of insulin function and energy metabolism
As predators go, cone snails are slow-moving and lack the typical fighting parts. They’ve made up for it by producing a vast array of fast-acting toxins that target the nervous systems of prey. A new study reveals that some cone snails add a weaponized form of insulin to the venom cocktail they use to disable fish.
The images show two species of cone snail, Conus geographus (left) and Conus tulipa (right) attempting to capture their fish prey. As they approach potential prey, the snails release a specialized insulin into the water, along with neurotoxins that inhibit sensory circuits, resulting in hypoglycemic, sensory-deprived fish that are easier to engulf with their large, distensible false mouths. Once engulfed, powerful paralytic toxins are injected by the snail into each fish.
Credit:Jason Biggs and Baldomero Olivera