Chemical Warfare: Cone Snails Use Insulin as Weapon to Disable Fish

Feb 01, 2015 12:00 AM

Author: Balderamo M. Olivera

Cone snails lack the speed and other advantages that most predators use, but they’ve made up for it by evolving a venom cocktail that disables fish and, a new study reveals, includes a weaponized form of insulin. A synthetic form of the insulin caused blood glucose levels to plummet when injected into zebrafish and also disrupted swimming behavior in fish exposed to it through water contact. The researchers propose that adding the insulin to the cone snail’s venom cocktail enables some types of the predatory snails to disable entire schools of fish with hypoglycemic shock. The snail insulin potentially can aid researchers in studying how the human body controls blood sugar and energy metabolism.

Driving Discovery cone snail