Mad, bad and dangerous to know: the biochemistry, ecology and evolution of slow loris venom

Nekaris, K. Anne-Isola, Moore, Richard S., Rode, E. Johanna and Fry, Bryan G. (2013) Mad, bad and dangerous to know: the biochemistry, ecology and evolution of slow loris venom. Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins Including Tropical Diseases, 19 1: 21.1-21.9. doi:10.1186/1678-9199-19-21


Author Nekaris, K. Anne-Isola
Moore, Richard S.
Rode, E. Johanna
Fry, Bryan G.
Title Mad, bad and dangerous to know: the biochemistry, ecology and evolution of slow loris venom
Journal name Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins Including Tropical Diseases   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1678-9199
Publication date 2013-09
Year available 2013
Sub-type Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
DOI 10.1186/1678-9199-19-21
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 19
Issue 1
Start page 21.1
End page 21.9
Total pages 10
Place of publication London, United Kingdom
Publisher BioMed Central Ltd.
Collection year 2014
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Only seven types of mammals are known to be venomous, including slow lorises (Nycticebus spp.). Despite the evolutionary significance of this unique adaptation amongst Nycticebus, the structure and function of slow loris venom is only just beginning to be understood. Here we review what is known about the chemical structure of slow loris venom. Research on a handful of captive samples from three of eight slow loris species reveals that the protein within slow loris venom resembles the disulphide-bridged heterodimeric structure of Fel-d1, more commonly known as cat allergen. In a comparison of N. pygmaeus and N. coucang, 212 and 68 compounds were found, respectively. Venom is activated by combining the oil from the brachial arm gland with saliva, and can cause death in small mammals and anaphylactic shock and death in humans. We examine four hypotheses for the function of slow loris venom. The least evidence is found for the hypothesis that loris venom evolved to kill prey. Although the venom’s primary function in nature seems to be as a defense against parasites and conspecifics, it may also serve to thwart olfactory-orientated predators. Combined with numerous other serpentine features of slow lorises, including extra vertebra in the spine leading to snake-like movement, serpentine aggressive vocalisations, a long dark dorsal stripe and the venom itself, we propose that venom may have evolved to mimic cobras (Naja sp.). During the Miocene when both slow lorises and cobras migrated throughout Southeast Asia, the evolution of venom may have been an adaptive strategy against predators used by slow lorises as a form of Müllerian mimicry with spectacled cobras.
Keyword Venoms
Ecology
Primates
Intraspecific competition
Predation
Ectoparasite
Naja naja
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
Collections: Official 2014 Collection
School of Biological Sciences Publications
 
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