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    Evolution of the Scorpion's Venomous Sting

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    Geo Beats

    by Geo Beats

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    According to a new study from researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, genetic mutation might have changed the defensins protein, used to defend insects from viruses, bacteria, and microbes, to a neurotoxin in scorpions used for hunting prey or defending against potential threats.

    Have you ever wondered how scorpions evolved to have a venomous stinger?

    According to a new study from researchers in Belgium and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, genetic mutation might have changed the defensins protein, used to defend insects from viruses, bacteria, and microbes, to a neurotoxin in scorpions used for hunting prey or defending against potential threats.

    They tested this theory by analyzing the scorpion neurotoxin and looked for the same signature genetic sequence in defensins protein samples from insects.


    The results showed that several of the insects they studied, like green shield bugs, spined soldier bugs and three different species of backswimmers, all had defensins with the same signature toxin sequence.

    Doctor Shunyi Zhu, the lead author of the study is quoted as saying: “Our work represents an excellent example of divergent evolution, where structural alteration in an ancestral scaffold led to functional shift of proteins from fighting against microbes to attacking prey.”

    With only one genetic structural loop deleted, defensins proteins from an insect could be genetically modified to make it functional as a scorpion toxin.

    Data from the study reveals the first evidence that defensins and poisonous toxins are so closely related.