Categories
Science

How to Care for Komodo Dragons, the World’s Largest Lizards

Caring for Komodo Dragons, the World’s Largest Lizards

Reptile keepers are warming up to a new monitor lizard this winter, a young Komodo dragon named Onyx.
Reptile keepers are warming up to a new monitor lizard this winter, a young Komodo dragon named Onyx.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo is warming up to a new monitor lizard this winter. The young Komodo dragon, named Onyx, moved into his new habitat at Reptile Discovery Center Dec. 10, 2020. The team is just getting to know Onyx, but animal keeper Matt Neff has already nicknamed him “Junior” because he resembles the Zoo’s 22-year-old Komodo dragon, Murphy, in both looks and temperament.

Onyx is a little over a year old, and keepers estimate he weighs just 2-3 pounds. He is tiny compared to Murphy who usually tips the scales at 146-152 pounds. That’s about average for Komodo dragons. They are the world’s largest lizards and can reach lengths of about 10 feet.

Komodo dragons have thick, leathery skin, strong claws, sharp teeth and a venomous bite, so keepers must be very careful when interacting with these reptiles. Neff has worked with Murphy for about seven years, so he has a lot of practice. Still, keepers never let their guards down with dangerous animals.

A 22-year-old Komodo dragon with a large, heavy body, scaly skin and large claws stands in the grass.

Komodo dragon’s are the world’s largest lizards. The Zoo’s 22-year-old Komodo dragon, Murphy, typically weighs 146-152 pounds. (Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute)

Big Lizards, Big Appetites

Komodo dragons can move quickly despite their long, heavy bodies. “They’re not like marathon runners, but they can move decently fast and in short bursts,” explains Neff. In the wild, a full-grown adult can take down prey as large as a water buffalo, but that kind of attack is rare. Komodo dragons are opportunistic hunters. They will feed on almost any easy meal, such as a small rodent that wanders by or the carcass of a dead animal. “They really rely on their sense of smell which can help detect rotting flesh from miles away,” says Neff.

Though Komodo dragons will hunt using their keen observational skills, they mostly rely on smell and taste. Like snakes, they use their long, forked tongues to sample scents from the air. Then, they touch their tongue to the roof of their mouth, where the Jacobson’s organ analyzes the scent molecules. If the scent of a meal is stronger on one side of the tongue, the Komodo dragon knows to head in that direction.

Adult males may even prey upon small, juvenile dragons when given the opportunity, which is one of the main reasons Komodo dragons live in trees for the first few years of their lives. This type of cannibalism is not unusual among reptiles. “They don’t know when their next meal is coming. If it’s food, they have to eat it,” says Neff. Here at the Zoo, keepers feed Murphy and Onyx a variety of foods to satisfy their carnivorous appetites.

An adult Komodo dragon with a heavy body, scaly skin, claws and a forked tongue stands in a small pool of water

(Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute)

Murphy eats frozen-thawed mice, rabbits, guinea pigs, chicken, beef, oxtail, herring, tilapia and more. He swallows most of his food whole or uses his teeth to saw off pieces of larger food. Like many reptiles, a Komodo dragon’s teeth are not built for chewing. “Their teeth are curved back,” explains Neff, “and the back curve is serrated, designed to tear or rip off pieces of meat from larger carcasses.” Onyx eats small items like mice, chicks, hard-boiled eggs and small chunks of meat right now, but keepers will introduce large food items as he grows.

Training Time

Food is also useful for training. Keepers can’t pick up a huge and potentially dangerous lizard like Murphy, so they train him to participate in his care. One of their main tools is a large crate that stays in Murphy’s habitat, where it has become a familiar object. They can place the crate on a scale and ask Murphy to climb in to be weighed or use the crate to transport him to the veterinary hospital. Holes in the crate allow keepers to give Murphy bits of food as a reward to reinforce his good behavior.

His training also includes getting used to different experiences, such as the touch of a keeper, the sensation of a needle, and the feel of being scrubbed or groomed with a brush. Male Komodo dragons typically live to be about 20 years old in human care. That means Murphy is elderly in Komodo dragon years and requires some special care for conditions that are a natural part of aging, like arthritis in his legs. Thanks to his many years of training, keepers and veterinarians can work together to give him laser therapy treatments for his arthritis twice a week.

The dedication to training Murphy has prepared keepers to work with Onyx, too. They know which behaviors to focus on, what to expect and what to avoid. “One thing that we do before we go into Murphy’s habitat is read his body language,” says Neff. If Murphy seems active, excited or begins drooling (a sign he is expecting food), keepers know that it may not be the best time to enter his space. With time, they will be able to make the same judgments about Onyx.

A juvenile Komodo dragon with a long, slender body, scaly skin, long toes and short claws rests on a tree branch

(Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute)

Onyx’s training will start the same way Murphy’s did more than 20 years ago. “Our plan is to be very hands on, so we can hopefully end up with a pretty chill Komodo that’s easy to work with,” says Neff. Keepers will help Onyx get comfortable with their presence and touch. For now, he is still small enough to place in a container to weigh, but soon he will learn to enter a crate just like Murphy.

Beyond training, Reptile Discovery Center herpetologists (zoologists who study reptiles and amphibians) have a long history of working with Komodo dragons. They have published research on Komodo dragon biology, ecology, behavior and conservation. And in the 1990s, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo became the first zoo to successfully hatch Komodo dragons outside of Indonesia, a breakthrough for the conservation of this vulnerable species.

Caring for Murphy has contributed to Reptile Discovery Center’s wealth of knowledge about these lizards. Keepers have not had a young dragon in their care for nearly two decades, so they look forward to getting to know Onyx and continuing to learn about these incredible reptiles.

While the Zoo remains temporarily closed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, our keepers work diligently behind the scenes to provide excellent care to all of our creatures, great and small. Thank you for your continued support. Follow the Zoo’s social media using the hashtag #NatZooZen for more fun updates!

Ashley Goetz

Ashley Goetz is a web content writer at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, where she translates animal care research and conservation science into compelling stories. Ashley earned a bachelor’s degree in public communication with a minor in marine biology from American University. When she isn’t at the Zoo, she spends her time traveling, crocheting and watching reruns of “Parks and Recreation” with her two cats.

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Science

Scientists Discover This Peculiar New Zealand Reptile Has Two ‘Powerhouse’ Genomes

Intern Helps Find First Vertebrate With Two “Powerhouse” Genomes

The Tuatara, Sphenodon punctatus, is a unique reptile found in New Zealand. New research suggests the species has two mitochondrial genomes. (Robert Sprackland)
The Tuatara, Sphenodon punctatus, is a unique reptile found in New Zealand. New research suggests the species has two mitochondrial genomes. (Robert Sprackland)

250 million years ago, many tuataras roamed the world. Now, only one species remains. In fact, the modern tuatara, Sphenodon punctatus, is the only surviving family member of its taxonomic order, Rhynchocephalia.

Today, a new paper in Communications Biology suggests there is something even more remarkable about this little survivor. Scientists have now found that the species may have two mitochondrial genomes, making it unlike any other vertebrate in the world.

All animals have nuclear DNA found in the cell’s nucleus and mitochondrial DNA, located in the so-called cellular “powerhouse,” the mitochondria. By examining both types of genomes, scientists are building pictures of countless species’ evolution throughout millennia.

“If you know the right mathematical tricks, you can find a story of evolution hidden in a dump of data,” said Ella Buring, a former high school intern for the Global Genome Initiative at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and co-author on the paper.

But her and her colleagues’ discovery of a second mitochondrial genome complicates the tuatara’s evolutionary tale.

Two(atara) mitochondrial genomes

A scientist at a lab bench.

In the lab, Buring set up and ran experiments to amplify tuatara DNA samples and hunt for clues about the reptile’s genome. (Office of Academic Services, Smithsonian)

It all started when Buring was in high school, volunteering at Q?rius, the museum’s science education center. She was intrigued by the tuatara’s mitochondrial genome, because at the time scientists thought it was missing a few standard genes. Her interest led her to an internship with the museum’s Global Genome Initiative (GGI), where she planned to study the reptile to uncover its past.

“I was very drawn to this idea that the past tells a story, if you just know how to analyze it right,” said Buring.

At GGI, she began working with Dr. Dan Mulcahy, a former biological science laboratory technician and current research collaborator with the museum as well as head of the tissue and DNA collections at the Museum für Naturkunde, in Berlin, to analyze the tuatara’s genome.

With the help of Dr. Vanessa González, a computational genomics scientist at GGI, they analyzed existing tuatara DNA sequences and compared them to other reptilian DNA. They soon realized that the genome was not as incomplete as scientists initially thought.

While writing a paper about this discovery, the three joined an international team of scientists studying the tuatara’s genome for other abnormalities. As that research progressed, the group realized there were too many spare, mysterious sequences of DNA in the reptile’s mitochondrial genome.

“We started going deeper and ended up constructing a complete second mitochondrial genome,” said Mulcahy.

With the international team and new data from the entire sequenced genome, they identified a complete second mitochondrial genome that is ten percent different from the ‘typical’ tuatara mitochondrial genome.

Although the discovery of a second mitochondrial genome was only confirmed in a single specimen, its presence is still surprising. If scientists find double mitochondrial genomes are common in tuataras, they could use these multiple genomes to find out when each genome appeared and when it split from the other in time. The research could help zoologists understand what exactly makes the species so genetically different from all other reptiles.

From past generations of reptiles to future generations of scientists

A group of people in front of posters.

Buring presents early research on the Tuatara genome with Mulcahy at the Global Biodiversity Genomics Conference in 2017. (Lee Weigt, Laboratories of Analytical Biology, Smithsonian)

But, the tuatara genomic discovery is more than a tale of two mitochondrial genomes. It is an example of the importance placed on mentorship at the museum. Through her internship at the Global Genome Initiative, Buring was able to be a part of an international scientific discovery and co-author of a paper. She now attends the University of Chicago, where she continues to study divergence but now for linguistics.

She still uses the scientific methods she learned while studying the tuatara’s evolutionary divergence in the laboratory — a success for the museum’s leadership, who are dedicated to training future scientists.

“Now more than ever, science, technology, and evidence-based critical thinking are essential for understanding some of the biggest challenges to our planet,” said Dr. Rebecca Johnson, the museum’s Associate Director for Science and Chief Scientist. “As the custodians of the largest natural history collection in the world, one of our most important roles at the National Museum of Natural History is in training the next generation of scientists and museum professionals.”

Related Stories:
Rare Iridescent Snake Discovered in Vietnam
Landmark Study Shares Smithsonian Bird DNA Collected Over Three Decades
Scientists to Read DNA of All Eukaryotes in 10 Years
Viper’s DNA Reveals Ancient Map of South America
Can Genetics Improve Fisheries Management

Abigail Eisenstadt

Abigail Eisenstadt is a Communications Assistant at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. She brings science to the public via the museum’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs, where she tracks media coverage, coordinates filming activities, and writes for the museum’s blog, Smithsonian Voices. Abigail received her master’s in science journalism from Boston University. In her free time, she is either outdoors or in the kitchen.

More From This Author »

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Science

Johnson & Johnson’s single-jab vaccine also works: 72% overall efficacy

The company released its clinical data after a tantalizing wait: the first major vaccine that only requires a single-jab (instead of the two needed for the Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines) seems to also be effective. It’s not the 95% efficacy reported by other vaccines, but it’s still 85% effective at preventing hospitalizations and 66% effective at preventing moderate and severe cases. Overall efficacy is 72%, Johnson and Johnson says.

The results were eagerly awaited. For starters, any additional vaccine is important because it means more doses and more vaccine availability. But J&J’s vaccine (called ENSEMBLE) offers an important bonus: it only needs one single dose. This means that for the same number of doses, you can vaccinate twice as many people. In addition, it doesn’t require ultra-cold temperatures like other vaccines.

“There’s no question that this vaccine is going to be a game-changer,” Dr. Mathai Mammen, global head of pharmaceutical research and development for Johnson & Johnson, told CBS News’ Dr. Tara Narula. “The real-world effectiveness of this vaccine is apt to be very high.”

The move comes right on the heels of another exciting announcement from Novavax, whose vaccine also seems to be very effective (89.3% in the British trial, where over half of all cases were from the more menacing British variant — so it’s effective against that one as well).

J&J’s vaccine also uses a different technology than the other ones. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use mRNA, while Novavax is protein-based. This single-dose vaccine uses a weakened version of the cold virus to enter human cells and trigger an immune response that helps fight the actual coronavirus (without actually infecting you with the coronavirus).

“Our goal all along has been to create a simple, effective solution for the largest number of people possible, and to have maximum impact to help end the pandemic,” said CEO Alex Gorsky.

It’s still a significant difference (from approximately 90% to 70%), a difference that will leave many people wondering which vaccine they should opt for — but the very idea that we may be given a choice between vaccines is more than we could have hoped for half a year ago (and realistically, it won’t be an issue in the vast majority of cases).

“Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good enough,” Kizzmekia Corbett, one of the vaccine developers for Moderna, tweeted on Friday, encouraged by the efficacy percentages of ENSEMBLE.

“The potential to significantly reduce the burden of a severe disease, by providing an effective and well-tolerated vaccine with just one immunization, is a critical component of the global public health response,” said Paul Stoffels, the chief scientific officer of Johnson & Johnson.

The trials involved 44,000 participants in the US, South America, and South Africa — and the efficacy of the vaccine varied significantly from one area to the other: moderate and severe cases were reduced by 72% in the US, 66% in Latin America, and 57% in South Africa, where the South African was the prevalent one. When it comes to preventing hospitalization, the vaccine was 85% effective overall, which is far more encouraging.

“If you can prevent severe disease in a high percentage of individuals, that will alleviate so much of the stress and human suffering and death,” commented Anthony Fauci for CNN.

“You know what the problem is? If this were out there and we didn’t have the Moderna 94-95% …. We would have said wow, a 72% effective vaccine that’s even more effective against severe disease is really terrific,” he added in a telephone interview.

It’s easy to get a bit confused among all these figures and unclear terms like “severe diseases”, but here’s what this means: severe cases mean people who feel very sick — but the vast majority of them can receive treatment at home. Just a minority of severe cases require hospitalization — so when it comes to preventing these hospitalizations, the vaccine has very high efficacy, which is exceptional for a cheap, single-dose vaccine. But when it comes to symptomatic cases that don’t require hospitalization, its effectiveness drops substantially for the South African variant, which can spell problems down the line as more variants may appear.

Creating not one, but several vaccines in less than a year is a striking development, but producing and distributing it to billions of people is a whole new challenge. The more reliable vaccines we have, the better our chances of exiting the pandemic and limiting the damage it caused. It won’t be easy, but for a change, there’s an actual light at the end of the tunnel now.

Categories
Science

How to Care for Komodo Dragons, the World’s Largest Lizards

Caring for Komodo Dragons, the World’s Largest Lizards

Reptile keepers are warming up to a new monitor lizard this winter, a young Komodo dragon named Onyx.
Reptile keepers are warming up to a new monitor lizard this winter, a young Komodo dragon named Onyx.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo is warming up to a new monitor lizard this winter. The young Komodo dragon, named Onyx, moved into his new habitat at Reptile Discovery Center Dec. 10, 2020. The team is just getting to know Onyx, but animal keeper Matt Neff has already nicknamed him “Junior” because he resembles the Zoo’s 22-year-old Komodo dragon, Murphy, in both looks and temperament.

Onyx is a little over a year old, and keepers estimate he weighs just 2-3 pounds. He is tiny compared to Murphy who usually tips the scales at 146-152 pounds. That’s about average for Komodo dragons. They are the world’s largest lizards and can reach lengths of about 10 feet.

Komodo dragons have thick, leathery skin, strong claws, sharp teeth and a venomous bite, so keepers must be very careful when interacting with these reptiles. Neff has worked with Murphy for about seven years, so he has a lot of practice. Still, keepers never let their guards down with dangerous animals.

A 22-year-old Komodo dragon with a large, heavy body, scaly skin and large claws stands in the grass.

Komodo dragon’s are the world’s largest lizards. The Zoo’s 22-year-old Komodo dragon, Murphy, typically weighs 146-152 pounds. (Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute)

Big Lizards, Big Appetites

Komodo dragons can move quickly despite their long, heavy bodies. “They’re not like marathon runners, but they can move decently fast and in short bursts,” explains Neff. In the wild, a full-grown adult can take down prey as large as a water buffalo, but that kind of attack is rare. Komodo dragons are opportunistic hunters. They will feed on almost any easy meal, such as a small rodent that wanders by or the carcass of a dead animal. “They really rely on their sense of smell which can help detect rotting flesh from miles away,” says Neff.

Though Komodo dragons will hunt using their keen observational skills, they mostly rely on smell and taste. Like snakes, they use their long, forked tongues to sample scents from the air. Then, they touch their tongue to the roof of their mouth, where the Jacobson’s organ analyzes the scent molecules. If the scent of a meal is stronger on one side of the tongue, the Komodo dragon knows to head in that direction.

Adult males may even prey upon small, juvenile dragons when given the opportunity, which is one of the main reasons Komodo dragons live in trees for the first few years of their lives. This type of cannibalism is not unusual among reptiles. “They don’t know when their next meal is coming. If it’s food, they have to eat it,” says Neff. Here at the Zoo, keepers feed Murphy and Onyx a variety of foods to satisfy their carnivorous appetites.

An adult Komodo dragon with a heavy body, scaly skin, claws and a forked tongue stands in a small pool of water

(Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute)

Murphy eats frozen-thawed mice, rabbits, guinea pigs, chicken, beef, oxtail, herring, tilapia and more. He swallows most of his food whole or uses his teeth to saw off pieces of larger food. Like many reptiles, a Komodo dragon’s teeth are not built for chewing. “Their teeth are curved back,” explains Neff, “and the back curve is serrated, designed to tear or rip off pieces of meat from larger carcasses.” Onyx eats small items like mice, chicks, hard-boiled eggs and small chunks of meat right now, but keepers will introduce large food items as he grows.

Training Time

Food is also useful for training. Keepers can’t pick up a huge and potentially dangerous lizard like Murphy, so they train him to participate in his care. One of their main tools is a large crate that stays in Murphy’s habitat, where it has become a familiar object. They can place the crate on a scale and ask Murphy to climb in to be weighed or use the crate to transport him to the veterinary hospital. Holes in the crate allow keepers to give Murphy bits of food as a reward to reinforce his good behavior.

His training also includes getting used to different experiences, such as the touch of a keeper, the sensation of a needle, and the feel of being scrubbed or groomed with a brush. Male Komodo dragons typically live to be about 20 years old in human care. That means Murphy is elderly in Komodo dragon years and requires some special care for conditions that are a natural part of aging, like arthritis in his legs. Thanks to his many years of training, keepers and veterinarians can work together to give him laser therapy treatments for his arthritis twice a week.

The dedication to training Murphy has prepared keepers to work with Onyx, too. They know which behaviors to focus on, what to expect and what to avoid. “One thing that we do before we go into Murphy’s habitat is read his body language,” says Neff. If Murphy seems active, excited or begins drooling (a sign he is expecting food), keepers know that it may not be the best time to enter his space. With time, they will be able to make the same judgments about Onyx.

A juvenile Komodo dragon with a long, slender body, scaly skin, long toes and short claws rests on a tree branch

(Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute)

Onyx’s training will start the same way Murphy’s did more than 20 years ago. “Our plan is to be very hands on, so we can hopefully end up with a pretty chill Komodo that’s easy to work with,” says Neff. Keepers will help Onyx get comfortable with their presence and touch. For now, he is still small enough to place in a container to weigh, but soon he will learn to enter a crate just like Murphy.

Beyond training, Reptile Discovery Center herpetologists (zoologists who study reptiles and amphibians) have a long history of working with Komodo dragons. They have published research on Komodo dragon biology, ecology, behavior and conservation. And in the 1990s, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo became the first zoo to successfully hatch Komodo dragons outside of Indonesia, a breakthrough for the conservation of this vulnerable species.

Caring for Murphy has contributed to Reptile Discovery Center’s wealth of knowledge about these lizards. Keepers have not had a young dragon in their care for nearly two decades, so they look forward to getting to know Onyx and continuing to learn about these incredible reptiles.

While the Zoo remains temporarily closed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, our keepers work diligently behind the scenes to provide excellent care to all of our creatures, great and small. Thank you for your continued support. Follow the Zoo’s social media using the hashtag #NatZooZen for more fun updates!

Ashley Goetz

Ashley Goetz is a web content writer at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, where she translates animal care research and conservation science into compelling stories. Ashley earned a bachelor’s degree in public communication with a minor in marine biology from American University. When she isn’t at the Zoo, she spends her time traveling, crocheting and watching reruns of “Parks and Recreation” with her two cats.

More From This Author »

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Science

Scientists Discover This Peculiar New Zealand Reptile Has Two ‘Powerhouse’ Genomes

Intern Helps Find First Vertebrate With Two “Powerhouse” Genomes

The Tuatara, Sphenodon punctatus, is a unique reptile found in New Zealand. New research suggests the species has two mitochondrial genomes. (Robert Sprackland)
The Tuatara, Sphenodon punctatus, is a unique reptile found in New Zealand. New research suggests the species has two mitochondrial genomes. (Robert Sprackland)

250 million years ago, many tuataras roamed the world. Now, only one species remains. In fact, the modern tuatara, Sphenodon punctatus, is the only surviving family member of its taxonomic order, Rhynchocephalia.

Today, a new paper in Communications Biology suggests there is something even more remarkable about this little survivor. Scientists have now found that the species may have two mitochondrial genomes, making it unlike any other vertebrate in the world.

All animals have nuclear DNA found in the cell’s nucleus and mitochondrial DNA, located in the so-called cellular “powerhouse,” the mitochondria. By examining both types of genomes, scientists are building pictures of countless species’ evolution throughout millennia.

“If you know the right mathematical tricks, you can find a story of evolution hidden in a dump of data,” said Ella Buring, a former high school intern for the Global Genome Initiative at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and co-author on the paper.

But her and her colleagues’ discovery of a second mitochondrial genome complicates the tuatara’s evolutionary tale.

Two(atara) mitochondrial genomes

A scientist at a lab bench.

In the lab, Buring set up and ran experiments to amplify tuatara DNA samples and hunt for clues about the reptile’s genome. (Office of Academic Services, Smithsonian)

It all started when Buring was in high school, volunteering at Q?rius, the museum’s science education center. She was intrigued by the tuatara’s mitochondrial genome, because at the time scientists thought it was missing a few standard genes. Her interest led her to an internship with the museum’s Global Genome Initiative (GGI), where she planned to study the reptile to uncover its past.

“I was very drawn to this idea that the past tells a story, if you just know how to analyze it right,” said Buring.

At GGI, she began working with Dr. Dan Mulcahy, a former biological science laboratory technician and current research collaborator with the museum as well as head of the tissue and DNA collections at the Museum für Naturkunde, in Berlin, to analyze the tuatara’s genome.

With the help of Dr. Vanessa González, a computational genomics scientist at GGI, they analyzed existing tuatara DNA sequences and compared them to other reptilian DNA. They soon realized that the genome was not as incomplete as scientists initially thought.

While writing a paper about this discovery, the three joined an international team of scientists studying the tuatara’s genome for other abnormalities. As that research progressed, the group realized there were too many spare, mysterious sequences of DNA in the reptile’s mitochondrial genome.

“We started going deeper and ended up constructing a complete second mitochondrial genome,” said Mulcahy.

With the international team and new data from the entire sequenced genome, they identified a complete second mitochondrial genome that is ten percent different from the ‘typical’ tuatara mitochondrial genome.

Although the discovery of a second mitochondrial genome was only confirmed in a single specimen, its presence is still surprising. If scientists find double mitochondrial genomes are common in tuataras, they could use these multiple genomes to find out when each genome appeared and when it split from the other in time. The research could help zoologists understand what exactly makes the species so genetically different from all other reptiles.

From past generations of reptiles to future generations of scientists

A group of people in front of posters.

Buring presents early research on the Tuatara genome with Mulcahy at the Global Biodiversity Genomics Conference in 2017. (Lee Weigt, Laboratories of Analytical Biology, Smithsonian)

But, the tuatara genomic discovery is more than a tale of two mitochondrial genomes. It is an example of the importance placed on mentorship at the museum. Through her internship at the Global Genome Initiative, Buring was able to be a part of an international scientific discovery and co-author of a paper. She now attends the University of Chicago, where she continues to study divergence but now for linguistics.

She still uses the scientific methods she learned while studying the tuatara’s evolutionary divergence in the laboratory — a success for the museum’s leadership, who are dedicated to training future scientists.

“Now more than ever, science, technology, and evidence-based critical thinking are essential for understanding some of the biggest challenges to our planet,” said Dr. Rebecca Johnson, the museum’s Associate Director for Science and Chief Scientist. “As the custodians of the largest natural history collection in the world, one of our most important roles at the National Museum of Natural History is in training the next generation of scientists and museum professionals.”

Related Stories:
Rare Iridescent Snake Discovered in Vietnam
Landmark Study Shares Smithsonian Bird DNA Collected Over Three Decades
Scientists to Read DNA of All Eukaryotes in 10 Years
Viper’s DNA Reveals Ancient Map of South America
Can Genetics Improve Fisheries Management

Abigail Eisenstadt

Abigail Eisenstadt is a Communications Assistant at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. She brings science to the public via the museum’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs, where she tracks media coverage, coordinates filming activities, and writes for the museum’s blog, Smithsonian Voices. Abigail received her master’s in science journalism from Boston University. In her free time, she is either outdoors or in the kitchen.

More From This Author »

|

Categories
Science

Johnson & Johnson’s single-jab vaccine also works: 72% overall efficacy

The company released its clinical data after a tantalizing wait: the first major vaccine that only requires a single-jab (instead of the two needed for the Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines) seems to also be effective. It’s not the 95% efficacy reported by other vaccines, but it’s still 85% effective at preventing hospitalizations and 66% effective at preventing moderate and severe cases. Overall efficacy is 72%, Johnson and Johnson says.

The results were eagerly awaited. For starters, any additional vaccine is important because it means more doses and more vaccine availability. But J&J’s vaccine (called ENSEMBLE) offers an important bonus: it only needs one single dose. This means that for the same number of doses, you can vaccinate twice as many people. In addition, it doesn’t require ultra-cold temperatures like other vaccines.

“There’s no question that this vaccine is going to be a game-changer,” Dr. Mathai Mammen, global head of pharmaceutical research and development for Johnson & Johnson, told CBS News’ Dr. Tara Narula. “The real-world effectiveness of this vaccine is apt to be very high.”

The move comes right on the heels of another exciting announcement from Novavax, whose vaccine also seems to be very effective (89.3% in the British trial, where over half of all cases were from the more menacing British variant — so it’s effective against that one as well).

J&J’s vaccine also uses a different technology than the other ones. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use mRNA, while Novavax is protein-based. This single-dose vaccine uses a weakened version of the cold virus to enter human cells and trigger an immune response that helps fight the actual coronavirus (without actually infecting you with the coronavirus).

“Our goal all along has been to create a simple, effective solution for the largest number of people possible, and to have maximum impact to help end the pandemic,” said CEO Alex Gorsky.

It’s still a significant difference (from approximately 90% to 70%), a difference that will leave many people wondering which vaccine they should opt for — but the very idea that we may be given a choice between vaccines is more than we could have hoped for half a year ago (and realistically, it won’t be an issue in the vast majority of cases).

“Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good enough,” Kizzmekia Corbett, one of the vaccine developers for Moderna, tweeted on Friday, encouraged by the efficacy percentages of ENSEMBLE.

“The potential to significantly reduce the burden of a severe disease, by providing an effective and well-tolerated vaccine with just one immunization, is a critical component of the global public health response,” said Paul Stoffels, the chief scientific officer of Johnson & Johnson.

The trials involved 44,000 participants in the US, South America, and South Africa — and the efficacy of the vaccine varied significantly from one area to the other: moderate and severe cases were reduced by 72% in the US, 66% in Latin America, and 57% in South Africa, where the South African was the prevalent one. When it comes to preventing hospitalization, the vaccine was 85% effective overall, which is far more encouraging.

“If you can prevent severe disease in a high percentage of individuals, that will alleviate so much of the stress and human suffering and death,” commented Anthony Fauci for CNN.

“You know what the problem is? If this were out there and we didn’t have the Moderna 94-95% …. We would have said wow, a 72% effective vaccine that’s even more effective against severe disease is really terrific,” he added in a telephone interview.

It’s easy to get a bit confused among all these figures and unclear terms like “severe diseases”, but here’s what this means: severe cases mean people who feel very sick — but the vast majority of them can receive treatment at home. Just a minority of severe cases require hospitalization — so when it comes to preventing these hospitalizations, the vaccine has very high efficacy, which is exceptional for a cheap, single-dose vaccine. But when it comes to symptomatic cases that don’t require hospitalization, its effectiveness drops substantially for the South African variant, which can spell problems down the line as more variants may appear.

Creating not one, but several vaccines in less than a year is a striking development, but producing and distributing it to billions of people is a whole new challenge. The more reliable vaccines we have, the better our chances of exiting the pandemic and limiting the damage it caused. It won’t be easy, but for a change, there’s an actual light at the end of the tunnel now.

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How to Care for Komodo Dragons, the World’s Largest Lizards

Caring for Komodo Dragons, the World’s Largest Lizards

Reptile keepers are warming up to a new monitor lizard this winter, a young Komodo dragon named Onyx.
Reptile keepers are warming up to a new monitor lizard this winter, a young Komodo dragon named Onyx.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo is warming up to a new monitor lizard this winter. The young Komodo dragon, named Onyx, moved into his new habitat at Reptile Discovery Center Dec. 10, 2020. The team is just getting to know Onyx, but animal keeper Matt Neff has already nicknamed him “Junior” because he resembles the Zoo’s 22-year-old Komodo dragon, Murphy, in both looks and temperament.

Onyx is a little over a year old, and keepers estimate he weighs just 2-3 pounds. He is tiny compared to Murphy who usually tips the scales at 146-152 pounds. That’s about average for Komodo dragons. They are the world’s largest lizards and can reach lengths of about 10 feet.

Komodo dragons have thick, leathery skin, strong claws, sharp teeth and a venomous bite, so keepers must be very careful when interacting with these reptiles. Neff has worked with Murphy for about seven years, so he has a lot of practice. Still, keepers never let their guards down with dangerous animals.

A 22-year-old Komodo dragon with a large, heavy body, scaly skin and large claws stands in the grass.

Komodo dragon’s are the world’s largest lizards. The Zoo’s 22-year-old Komodo dragon, Murphy, typically weighs 146-152 pounds. (Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute)

Big Lizards, Big Appetites

Komodo dragons can move quickly despite their long, heavy bodies. “They’re not like marathon runners, but they can move decently fast and in short bursts,” explains Neff. In the wild, a full-grown adult can take down prey as large as a water buffalo, but that kind of attack is rare. Komodo dragons are opportunistic hunters. They will feed on almost any easy meal, such as a small rodent that wanders by or the carcass of a dead animal. “They really rely on their sense of smell which can help detect rotting flesh from miles away,” says Neff.

Though Komodo dragons will hunt using their keen observational skills, they mostly rely on smell and taste. Like snakes, they use their long, forked tongues to sample scents from the air. Then, they touch their tongue to the roof of their mouth, where the Jacobson’s organ analyzes the scent molecules. If the scent of a meal is stronger on one side of the tongue, the Komodo dragon knows to head in that direction.

Adult males may even prey upon small, juvenile dragons when given the opportunity, which is one of the main reasons Komodo dragons live in trees for the first few years of their lives. This type of cannibalism is not unusual among reptiles. “They don’t know when their next meal is coming. If it’s food, they have to eat it,” says Neff. Here at the Zoo, keepers feed Murphy and Onyx a variety of foods to satisfy their carnivorous appetites.

An adult Komodo dragon with a heavy body, scaly skin, claws and a forked tongue stands in a small pool of water

(Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute)

Murphy eats frozen-thawed mice, rabbits, guinea pigs, chicken, beef, oxtail, herring, tilapia and more. He swallows most of his food whole or uses his teeth to saw off pieces of larger food. Like many reptiles, a Komodo dragon’s teeth are not built for chewing. “Their teeth are curved back,” explains Neff, “and the back curve is serrated, designed to tear or rip off pieces of meat from larger carcasses.” Onyx eats small items like mice, chicks, hard-boiled eggs and small chunks of meat right now, but keepers will introduce large food items as he grows.

Training Time

Food is also useful for training. Keepers can’t pick up a huge and potentially dangerous lizard like Murphy, so they train him to participate in his care. One of their main tools is a large crate that stays in Murphy’s habitat, where it has become a familiar object. They can place the crate on a scale and ask Murphy to climb in to be weighed or use the crate to transport him to the veterinary hospital. Holes in the crate allow keepers to give Murphy bits of food as a reward to reinforce his good behavior.

His training also includes getting used to different experiences, such as the touch of a keeper, the sensation of a needle, and the feel of being scrubbed or groomed with a brush. Male Komodo dragons typically live to be about 20 years old in human care. That means Murphy is elderly in Komodo dragon years and requires some special care for conditions that are a natural part of aging, like arthritis in his legs. Thanks to his many years of training, keepers and veterinarians can work together to give him laser therapy treatments for his arthritis twice a week.

The dedication to training Murphy has prepared keepers to work with Onyx, too. They know which behaviors to focus on, what to expect and what to avoid. “One thing that we do before we go into Murphy’s habitat is read his body language,” says Neff. If Murphy seems active, excited or begins drooling (a sign he is expecting food), keepers know that it may not be the best time to enter his space. With time, they will be able to make the same judgments about Onyx.

A juvenile Komodo dragon with a long, slender body, scaly skin, long toes and short claws rests on a tree branch

(Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute)

Onyx’s training will start the same way Murphy’s did more than 20 years ago. “Our plan is to be very hands on, so we can hopefully end up with a pretty chill Komodo that’s easy to work with,” says Neff. Keepers will help Onyx get comfortable with their presence and touch. For now, he is still small enough to place in a container to weigh, but soon he will learn to enter a crate just like Murphy.

Beyond training, Reptile Discovery Center herpetologists (zoologists who study reptiles and amphibians) have a long history of working with Komodo dragons. They have published research on Komodo dragon biology, ecology, behavior and conservation. And in the 1990s, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo became the first zoo to successfully hatch Komodo dragons outside of Indonesia, a breakthrough for the conservation of this vulnerable species.

Caring for Murphy has contributed to Reptile Discovery Center’s wealth of knowledge about these lizards. Keepers have not had a young dragon in their care for nearly two decades, so they look forward to getting to know Onyx and continuing to learn about these incredible reptiles.

While the Zoo remains temporarily closed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, our keepers work diligently behind the scenes to provide excellent care to all of our creatures, great and small. Thank you for your continued support. Follow the Zoo’s social media using the hashtag #NatZooZen for more fun updates!

Ashley Goetz

Ashley Goetz is a web content writer at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, where she translates animal care research and conservation science into compelling stories. Ashley earned a bachelor’s degree in public communication with a minor in marine biology from American University. When she isn’t at the Zoo, she spends her time traveling, crocheting and watching reruns of “Parks and Recreation” with her two cats.

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Scientists Discover This Peculiar New Zealand Reptile Has Two ‘Powerhouse’ Genomes

Intern Helps Find First Vertebrate With Two “Powerhouse” Genomes

The Tuatara, Sphenodon punctatus, is a unique reptile found in New Zealand. New research suggests the species has two mitochondrial genomes. (Robert Sprackland)
The Tuatara, Sphenodon punctatus, is a unique reptile found in New Zealand. New research suggests the species has two mitochondrial genomes. (Robert Sprackland)

250 million years ago, many tuataras roamed the world. Now, only one species remains. In fact, the modern tuatara, Sphenodon punctatus, is the only surviving family member of its taxonomic order, Rhynchocephalia.

Today, a new paper in Communications Biology suggests there is something even more remarkable about this little survivor. Scientists have now found that the species may have two mitochondrial genomes, making it unlike any other vertebrate in the world.

All animals have nuclear DNA found in the cell’s nucleus and mitochondrial DNA, located in the so-called cellular “powerhouse,” the mitochondria. By examining both types of genomes, scientists are building pictures of countless species’ evolution throughout millennia.

“If you know the right mathematical tricks, you can find a story of evolution hidden in a dump of data,” said Ella Buring, a former high school intern for the Global Genome Initiative at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and co-author on the paper.

But her and her colleagues’ discovery of a second mitochondrial genome complicates the tuatara’s evolutionary tale.

Two(atara) mitochondrial genomes

A scientist at a lab bench.

In the lab, Buring set up and ran experiments to amplify tuatara DNA samples and hunt for clues about the reptile’s genome. (Office of Academic Services, Smithsonian)

It all started when Buring was in high school, volunteering at Q?rius, the museum’s science education center. She was intrigued by the tuatara’s mitochondrial genome, because at the time scientists thought it was missing a few standard genes. Her interest led her to an internship with the museum’s Global Genome Initiative (GGI), where she planned to study the reptile to uncover its past.

“I was very drawn to this idea that the past tells a story, if you just know how to analyze it right,” said Buring.

At GGI, she began working with Dr. Dan Mulcahy, a former biological science laboratory technician and current research collaborator with the museum as well as head of the tissue and DNA collections at the Museum für Naturkunde, in Berlin, to analyze the tuatara’s genome.

With the help of Dr. Vanessa González, a computational genomics scientist at GGI, they analyzed existing tuatara DNA sequences and compared them to other reptilian DNA. They soon realized that the genome was not as incomplete as scientists initially thought.

While writing a paper about this discovery, the three joined an international team of scientists studying the tuatara’s genome for other abnormalities. As that research progressed, the group realized there were too many spare, mysterious sequences of DNA in the reptile’s mitochondrial genome.

“We started going deeper and ended up constructing a complete second mitochondrial genome,” said Mulcahy.

With the international team and new data from the entire sequenced genome, they identified a complete second mitochondrial genome that is ten percent different from the ‘typical’ tuatara mitochondrial genome.

Although the discovery of a second mitochondrial genome was only confirmed in a single specimen, its presence is still surprising. If scientists find double mitochondrial genomes are common in tuataras, they could use these multiple genomes to find out when each genome appeared and when it split from the other in time. The research could help zoologists understand what exactly makes the species so genetically different from all other reptiles.

From past generations of reptiles to future generations of scientists

A group of people in front of posters.

Buring presents early research on the Tuatara genome with Mulcahy at the Global Biodiversity Genomics Conference in 2017. (Lee Weigt, Laboratories of Analytical Biology, Smithsonian)

But, the tuatara genomic discovery is more than a tale of two mitochondrial genomes. It is an example of the importance placed on mentorship at the museum. Through her internship at the Global Genome Initiative, Buring was able to be a part of an international scientific discovery and co-author of a paper. She now attends the University of Chicago, where she continues to study divergence but now for linguistics.

She still uses the scientific methods she learned while studying the tuatara’s evolutionary divergence in the laboratory — a success for the museum’s leadership, who are dedicated to training future scientists.

“Now more than ever, science, technology, and evidence-based critical thinking are essential for understanding some of the biggest challenges to our planet,” said Dr. Rebecca Johnson, the museum’s Associate Director for Science and Chief Scientist. “As the custodians of the largest natural history collection in the world, one of our most important roles at the National Museum of Natural History is in training the next generation of scientists and museum professionals.”

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Abigail Eisenstadt

Abigail Eisenstadt is a Communications Assistant at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. She brings science to the public via the museum’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs, where she tracks media coverage, coordinates filming activities, and writes for the museum’s blog, Smithsonian Voices. Abigail received her master’s in science journalism from Boston University. In her free time, she is either outdoors or in the kitchen.

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Johnson & Johnson’s single-jab vaccine also works: 72% overall efficacy

The company released its clinical data after a tantalizing wait: the first major vaccine that only requires a single-jab (instead of the two needed for the Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines) seems to also be effective. It’s not the 95% efficacy reported by other vaccines, but it’s still 85% effective at preventing hospitalizations and 66% effective at preventing moderate and severe cases. Overall efficacy is 72%, Johnson and Johnson says.

The results were eagerly awaited. For starters, any additional vaccine is important because it means more doses and more vaccine availability. But J&J’s vaccine (called ENSEMBLE) offers an important bonus: it only needs one single dose. This means that for the same number of doses, you can vaccinate twice as many people. In addition, it doesn’t require ultra-cold temperatures like other vaccines.

“There’s no question that this vaccine is going to be a game-changer,” Dr. Mathai Mammen, global head of pharmaceutical research and development for Johnson & Johnson, told CBS News’ Dr. Tara Narula. “The real-world effectiveness of this vaccine is apt to be very high.”

The move comes right on the heels of another exciting announcement from Novavax, whose vaccine also seems to be very effective (89.3% in the British trial, where over half of all cases were from the more menacing British variant — so it’s effective against that one as well).

J&J’s vaccine also uses a different technology than the other ones. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use mRNA, while Novavax is protein-based. This single-dose vaccine uses a weakened version of the cold virus to enter human cells and trigger an immune response that helps fight the actual coronavirus (without actually infecting you with the coronavirus).

“Our goal all along has been to create a simple, effective solution for the largest number of people possible, and to have maximum impact to help end the pandemic,” said CEO Alex Gorsky.

It’s still a significant difference (from approximately 90% to 70%), a difference that will leave many people wondering which vaccine they should opt for — but the very idea that we may be given a choice between vaccines is more than we could have hoped for half a year ago (and realistically, it won’t be an issue in the vast majority of cases).

“Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good enough,” Kizzmekia Corbett, one of the vaccine developers for Moderna, tweeted on Friday, encouraged by the efficacy percentages of ENSEMBLE.

“The potential to significantly reduce the burden of a severe disease, by providing an effective and well-tolerated vaccine with just one immunization, is a critical component of the global public health response,” said Paul Stoffels, the chief scientific officer of Johnson & Johnson.

The trials involved 44,000 participants in the US, South America, and South Africa — and the efficacy of the vaccine varied significantly from one area to the other: moderate and severe cases were reduced by 72% in the US, 66% in Latin America, and 57% in South Africa, where the South African was the prevalent one. When it comes to preventing hospitalization, the vaccine was 85% effective overall, which is far more encouraging.

“If you can prevent severe disease in a high percentage of individuals, that will alleviate so much of the stress and human suffering and death,” commented Anthony Fauci for CNN.

“You know what the problem is? If this were out there and we didn’t have the Moderna 94-95% …. We would have said wow, a 72% effective vaccine that’s even more effective against severe disease is really terrific,” he added in a telephone interview.

It’s easy to get a bit confused among all these figures and unclear terms like “severe diseases”, but here’s what this means: severe cases mean people who feel very sick — but the vast majority of them can receive treatment at home. Just a minority of severe cases require hospitalization — so when it comes to preventing these hospitalizations, the vaccine has very high efficacy, which is exceptional for a cheap, single-dose vaccine. But when it comes to symptomatic cases that don’t require hospitalization, its effectiveness drops substantially for the South African variant, which can spell problems down the line as more variants may appear.

Creating not one, but several vaccines in less than a year is a striking development, but producing and distributing it to billions of people is a whole new challenge. The more reliable vaccines we have, the better our chances of exiting the pandemic and limiting the damage it caused. It won’t be easy, but for a change, there’s an actual light at the end of the tunnel now.

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Deterrence With Imperfect Attribution: A Better Kind of Cybersecurity Strategy

Cybersecurity Strategy

The multilateral nature of cybersecurity today makes it markedly different than conventional security, according to a new study co-authored by an MIT professor.

New model shows why countries that retaliate too much against online attacks make things worse for themselves.

During the opening ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympics, held in PyeongChang, South Korea, Russian hackers launched a cyberattack that disrupted television and internet systems at the games. The incident was resolved quickly, but because Russia used North Korean IP addresses for the attack, the source of the disruption was unclear in the event’s immediate aftermath.

There is a lesson in that attack, and others like it, at a time when hostilities between countries increasingly occur online. In contrast to conventional national security thinking, such skirmishes call for a new strategic outlook, according to a new paper co-authored by an MIT professor.

The core of the matter involves deterrence and retaliation. In conventional warfare, deterrence usually consists of potential retaliatory military strikes against enemies. But in cybersecurity, this is more complicated. If identifying cyberattackers is difficult, then retaliating too quickly or too often, on the basis of limited information such as the location of certain IP addresses, can be counterproductive. Indeed, it can embolden other countries to launch their own attacks, by leading them to think they will not be blamed.

“If one country becomes more aggressive, then the equilibrium response is that all countries are going to end up becoming more aggressive,” says Alexander Wolitzky, an MIT economist who specializes in game theory. “If after every cyberattack my first instinct is to retaliate against Russia and China, this gives North Korea and Iran impunity to engage in cyberattacks.”

But Wolitzky and his colleagues do think there is a viable new approach, involving a more judicious and well-informed use of selective retaliation.

“Imperfect attribution makes deterrence multilateral,” Wolitzky says. “You have to think about everybody’s incentives together. Focusing your attention on the most likely culprits could be a big mistake.”

The paper, “Deterrence with Imperfect Attribution,” appears in the latest issue of the American Political Science Review. In addition to Wolitzky, the authors are Sandeep Baliga, the John L. and Helen Kellogg Professor of Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management; and Ethan Bueno de Mesquita, the Sydney Stein Professor and deputy dean of the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

The study is a joint project, in which Baliga added to the research team by contacting Wolitzky, whose own work applies game theory to a wide variety of situations, including war, international affairs, network behavior, labor relations, and even technology adoption.

“In some sense this is a canonical kind of question for game theorists to think about,” Wolitzky says, noting that the development of game theory as an intellectual field stems from the study of nuclear deterrence during the Cold War. “We were interested in what’s different about cyberdeterrence, in contrast to conventional or nuclear deterrence. And of course there are a lot of differences, but one thing that we settled on pretty early is this attribution problem.” In their paper, the authors note that, as former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn once put it, “Whereas a missile comes with a return address, a computer virus generally does not.”

In some cases, countries are not even aware of major cyberattacks against them; Iran only belatedly realized it had been attacked by the Stuxnet worm over a period of years, damaging centrifuges being used in the country’s nuclear weapons program.

In the paper, the scholars largely examined scenarios where countries are aware of cyberattacks against them but have imperfect information about the attacks and attackers. After modeling these events extensively, the researchers determined that the multilateral nature of cybersecurity today makes it markedly different than conventional security. There is a much higher chance in multilateral conditions that retaliation can backfire, generating additional attacks from multiple sources.

“You don’t necessarily want to commit to be more aggressive after every signal,” Wolitzky says.

What does work, however, is simultaneously improving detection of attacks and gathering more information about the identity of the attackers, so that a country can pinpoint the other nations they could meaningfully retaliate against.

But even gathering more information to inform strategic decisions is a tricky process, as the scholars show. Detecting more attacks while being unable to identify the attackers does not clarify specific decisions, for instance. And gathering more information but having “too much certainty in attribution” can lead a country straight back into the problem of lashing out against some states, even as others are continuing to plan and commit attacks.

“The optimal doctrine in this case in some sense will commit you to retaliate more after the clearest signals, the most unambiguous signals,” Wolitzky says. “If you blindly commit yourself more to retaliate after every attack, you increase the risk you’re going to be retaliating after false alarms.”

Wolitzky points out that the paper’s model can apply to issues beyond cybersecurity. The problem of stopping pollution can have the same dynamics. If, for instance, numerous firms are polluting a river, singling just one out for punishment can embolden the others to continue.

Still, the authors do hope the paper will generate discussion in the foreign-policy community, with cyberattacks continuing to be a significant source of national security concern.

“People thought the possibility of failing to detect or attribute a cyberattack mattered, but there hadn’t [necessarily] been a recognition of the multilateral implications of this,” Wolitzky says. “I do think there is interest in thinking about the applications of that.”

Reference: “Deterrence with Imperfect Attribution” by Sandeep Baliga, Ethan Bueno De Mesquita and Alexander Wolitzky, 3 August 2020, American Political Science Review.
DOI: 10.1017/S0003055420000362

The research was supported, in part, by the Sloan Foundation and the National Science Foundation.