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Kevin Kohl, University of Utah

Fecal transplants let rats eat toxic plants

Desert woodrats frequently dine on the highly toxic creosote bush, but how do they do so without getting sick? Researchers have learned that the critters have specific gut bacteria that allow them to safely digest its toxins. After a fecal transplant from desert woodrats to others that are unable to consume creosote, the rodents gained the ability to digest the bush. In addition, groups of desert woodrats became unable to eat the plant after taking antibiotics that killed most of their gut microbes, biologists report online this week in Ecology Letters.

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