Amazing Ravens

Michal Shoshan schaut einen Raben auf ihrer Hand an


It was a coincidence that brought Michal Shoshan to the raven project. As group leader at the Department of Chemistry and Ambizione grant recipient, she was actually researching new active agents to counteract heavy-metal poisoning. But then she heard about studies in the USA with birds of prey that had been poisoned by lead from animal carcasses. In the study, eagles and condors showed high levels of lead in their blood while ravens did not, even though they also grazed on the carcasses. The poisonings occurred due to residues of lead from the ammunition used by hunters. Seizing the opportunity, Shoshan contacted the US study director and began researching the cause of the lead resistance in the ravens. She speculated that the birds have special substances that filter out dangerous concentrations of lead in the blood. The chemist suspected the substance might be chelators, which Shoshan has been investigating for several years. She has since found indications that the lead is excreted in the ravens’ feces and is now searching for the substances that make this detoxification possible.

Stefan Stöcklin