A powerful, paralysing venom produced by scorpions to develop a safe and ecologically sound pesticide that immobilises animal prey on the spot has been made use of by researchers.
Prof. Michael Gurevitz, Department of Plant Sciences, Tel Aviv University, based his research on the venom constituents of the Israeli yellow scorpion, known to be among the world's most poisonous scorpions.
He said: "Two decades ago I realized that scorpion venom is a goldmine for possible insecticidal and therapeutic agents. This raised the question of how to use them as ecologically-safe agents against insects in a farmer's fields, or in medicinal disorders."
Gurevitz investigated how they act against insects and mammals and found that some neurotoxins in the scorpion are highly active against some insects such as leaf-eating moths, locusts, flies and beetles but have no effect on beneficial insects like honeybees or on mammals like humans.
He added: "Why not harness potent natural compounds that venomous animals developed during millions of years of evolution? I am developing the science so we can learn how to use them, and to learn how to produce agents to mimic their effect yet maintain specificity to certain kinds of insects."
The paper was published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.