Venomous plants with stings as poisonous as that of snakes and Scorpions have been discovered in Australia.
Australia is known for the dangerous animals that populates it. The most common includes sharks, spiders, and snakes but there are several other predators that are not very common.
And some plants also fall into the category of this poisonous species.
The scientists from the University of Queensland have found out ‘scorpion-like’ toxins oozed out of a tree. The tree, has broad oval- or heart-shaped leaves, is mostly found in rainforest areas of northeast Queensland.
These trees are known as Gympie-Gympie in the Indigenous Gubbi Gubbi people’s language, and Dendrocnide in botanical Latin. The plant is surrounded by hollow needle-like hairs called trichomes, which are enhanced by silica. Like common nettles, these hairs have toxic substances; but, they possibly possess something more to stimulate so much pain.
Scientists found out that these venomous plants are capable of injecting unaware wanderers with chemicals, similar to those found in the stings of scorpions, spiders, and cone snails.
Scientists examined the stinging hairs from the tree. They collected extracts from the hairs and segregated them into their molecular constituents.
One of these segregated fractions induced crucial pain responses when examined in the laboratory. It comprises of a small family of related mini-proteins significantly larger in size than moroidin.
Scientists then separated all the genes seen in the Gympie-Gympie leaves to find out which gene could cause something with the size and property of our mystery toxin. They discovered molecules that can generate the pain reaction even when synthetically created in the lab and applied in isolation.
According to Irina Vetter, an associate professor at the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience, “The research team discovered a new class of neurotoxin miniproteins, which they christened ‘gympietides.’”
“Although they come from a plant, the gympietides are similar to spider and cone snail toxins in the way they fold into their 3D molecular structures and target the same pain receptors — this arguably makes the Gympie-Gympie tree a truly ‘venomous’ plant.”
“The long-lasting pain from the stinging tree may be explained by the gympietides permanently changing the sodium channels in the sensory neurons, not due to the fine hairs getting stuck in the skin.”
These stinging tree toxins match the pain of spiders and scorpions
“By understanding how this toxin works, we hope to provide better treatment to those who have been stung by the plant, to ease or eliminate the pain.”