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The New York Times and other of the world's most prestigious outlets for science news are reporting findings of Old Dominion University herpetologists regarding an Asian snake with an unusual way of fending off predators.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences will publish online and in its print journal the work of Deborah A. Hutchinson, a postdoctoral research associate, and her mentor, Alan H. Savitzky, professor of biological sciences. They, together with several collaborators, have found that the nonpoisonous snake, Rhabdophis tigrinus, can eat poisonous toads and store the toads' poison for defensive use. (see related story)

PNAS embargoed release of the findings until 5 p.m., Monday, Jan. 29, and immediately thereafter the news hit the online publications of the journal Nature as well as National Geographic. The New York Times article appeared in Tuesday morning's edition.

In addition, the story appeared Tuesday in Web or print versions in Scientific American, Cosmos (Australia), New Scientist and the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Hutchinson also has been interviewed for stories in Science and LiveScience.com. News coverage is Asia also is expected.

"The flurry of inquiries from the media was very exciting for us," said Hutchinson, who is first author of the paper in PNAS. "We have been waiting a long time to publish the first account of dietary toxin sequestration" in the snake. She started working on the project seven years ago while a master's student at ODU and continued into a doctoral program with the project as her focus.

This article was posted on: January 30, 2007

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