11:00 AM

Creepy Animals? Take another look!

It's Halloween and one of the many things people are scared of is "creepy" animals such as spiders, snakes and bats. If you are one of those people, you might want to take a second look at these 5 animals critical to helping people and nature. Thanks to the team at ZooAmerica for sharing their expertise!

  • Gila monsters are venomous lizards. That fact alone causes many people to fear them. But, did you know that these lizards are actually helping the medical field? Exendin-4 is a hormone within the saliva of a Gila monster that was first isolated by John Eng, MD in 1992[1]. The synthetic form, Exenatide, is used to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus. In 2005, Exenatide (aka “Lizard spit”) was approved by the FDA. [2]

  • Snakes are commonly feared by many people but they do help reduce the spread of disease by eating countless rodents every year. A timber rattlesnake (a common rattlesnake in Pennsylvania) will eat between 2500-4500 ticks in a year. They eat the mouse carrying the tick that carries Lyme disease and therefore, they dispose of the bacteria.

  • Stroke is the #5 cause of death in the United States[3]. Vampire bats have an enzyme in their saliva called desmoteplase (DSPA) which thins blood and could break up blood clots[4]. A drug named Draculin was created to extend the period of time for treatment that could positively affect stroke victims. However the Phase III trial of this drug was cancelled because, statistically, there were not enough significant outcomes compared to the placebo also used in the trial. There is still hope for further development; science never stops.

  • Tarantulas and other spiders eat bugs, such as cockroaches, fleas, mosquitoes and flies, that cause disease. This helps to reduce instances of bubonic plague, typhus, malaria and many more diseases. Scientists are looking at tarantula venom for medicinal purposes and at their webs to engineer stronger artificial silk.

  • Ravens may be associated with death, but nevermore will you see them as a dark omen! These intelligent animals have complex social structures, are known to create tools, use “hand” signals and even plan ahead. While ravens are studied extensively by students and scientists, they also benefit us by scavenging and cleaning up our Earth.

Every animal has a purpose- whether they directly benefit humans or the planet. This Halloween, we hope you will look for the positive in animals that are labeled as "scary" or "creepy"!

If you want to see these animals, and many more, visit ZooAmerica North American Wildlife Park which is open daily year round. For more information visit here: http://www.zooamerica.com.

[1] Exendin-4: From lizard to laboratory...and beyond. (7/11/12). Retrieved 10/31/17www.nia.nih.gov/news/exendin-4-lizard-laboratory-and-beyond

[2] Exendin-4: From lizard to laboratory...and beyond. (7/11/12). Retrieved 10/31/17www.nia.nih.gov/news/exendin-4-lizard-laboratory-and-beyond

[3] Leading Causes of Death. (3/17/17). Retrieved 10/31/17www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm

[4] Medcalf, Robert L. Desmoteplase: discovery, insights and opportunities for ischaemic stroke. (2012). Retrieved 10/30/17, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3252968/#_ffn_sectitle