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Hedgehogs use toad venom in their own defence


I REPORT here that toxic secretions evolved in prey organisms such as toads (Bufo) as chemical anti-predator mechanisms are used by hedgehogs (Insectivora, Erinaceidae) to enhance their own mechanical anti-predator adaptations—the spines, modified hairs, of the back. The secretions are taken into the mouth and licked on to the spines. In spite of interest in chemical, mechanical and behavioural anti-predator adaptions of both invertebrates and vertebrates1 there have been no reports of the behavioural utilisation of the anti-predator secretions of one species by another for its own defence. Toad skin is one of many irritating substances used by hedgehogs in self-anointing, and the presence of any of these, fresh or dried, on the spines would probably increase the pain or potential of infection to the would-be predator.

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BRODIE, E. Hedgehogs use toad venom in their own defence. Nature 268, 627–628 (1977).

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