- Not Exactly Rocket Science
Crested rat slobbers poison on its fur, dares predators to bite
The African crested rat is a thief, but its loot only becomes obvious if you take a bite out of it. Doing so would give you a mouthful of ouabain, a poison so strong that it can kill an elephant. The rat doesn’t make the poison itself. Instead, it pilfers it from the local Acokanthera schimperi tree. It gnaws on the roots and bark, chews them up, and slavers a coarse toxic gel onto the special hairs on its flanks. Local people use the same poison to coat their arrowheads. The rat uses it as a chemical shield.
The crested rat is found throughout eastern Africa. It is normally sluggish but when threatened, it puts on a vivid display. It