via Live Science:
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Vultures’ faces and large intestines are covered with bacteria that is toxic to most other creatures, but these birds of prey have evolved a strong gut that helps them not get sick from feasting on rotting flesh, according to a new study.
In the first analysis of bacteria living on vultures, the study’s researchers found that these scavengers are laden with flesh-degrading Fusobacteria and poisonous Clostridia. As bacteria decompose a dead body, they excrete toxic chemicals that make the carcass a perilous meal for most animals. But vultures often wait for decay to set in, giving them easy access to dead animals with tough skins.
Moreover, vultures will often pick at a dead animal through its back end — that is, the anus — to get at the tasty entrails. Their diet may be filled with toxic bacteria and putrid feces, but vultures are apparently immune to these deadly microbes, the researchers said.