The secret behind cone snail's venom pump discovered

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Washington, Oct 28 (ANI): The secret of how an amazing sea snail injects its venom after shooting a harpoon-like tooth into its prey - or some unlucky swimmer - at jetliner speeds has been discovered by scientists.

The creatures, called cone snails, use a highly specialized structure that instantly pumps the paralyzing venom through the tooth and into its target.

Helena Safavi-Hemami, Anthony Purcell and colleagues note that cone snails live mainly in the shallows of the world's tropical oceans.

Prized by sea-shell collectors for their beautiful shells, the snails are up to 9 inches long.

Their mouths have a blow-gun-like structure that shoots a barbed dart-like "tooth" at about 400 miles per hour.

The tooth injects venom into fish, worms, or other prey.

The snails occasionally sting swimmers, causing pain and sometimes death.

The venom is produced in the venom duct, a long tube attached to the harpoon on one end and to the venom bulb in the snail's mouth.

The scientists' analysis of proteins in venom bulbs found high concentrations of arginine kinase, a protein that enables squid and scallops to swim away from danger with extreme speed.

The scientists also identified specialized muscles in the venom bulb that appear to aid in this process.

Their study appears in ACS' monthly Journal of Proteome Research. (ANI)

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