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A decoy is usually a person, device or event meant as a distraction to conceal what an individual or a group might be looking for. Decoys have been used for centuries most notably in game hunting, but also in wartime and in the committing or resolving of crimes.

The decoy in war may for example be a wooden fake tank, designed to be mistaken by bomber plane crews to be real, or a device that fools an automatic system such as a guided missile, by simulating some physical properties of a real target.

For a defense system, decoys and chaff for ICBMs would mainly work in mid-course: during the boost phase they would be inside the rocket, because separate rockets for each of many decoys would not be practical, while at atmospheric reentry light decoys and chaff considerably slow down and/or are destroyed in the atmosphere.

A decoy was originally a small pond with a long cone-shaped wickerwork tunnel, used to catch wild ducks. After the ducks settled, a small trained dog would herd the ducks into the tunnel. The catch was formerly sent to market for food, but now these are only used to catch ducks to be ring and released: see ornithology. The word came from Dutch eende(n)kooi = "duck cage". As the above meaning of a person or device supplanted the original meaning as the most common, the latter acquired the retronym "decoy pool". List of Duck Decoys

Wildfowl decoys (primarily ducks, geese, shorebirds, and crows, but including some other species) are considered a form of folk art. Collecting decoys has become a significant hobby both for folk art collectors and hunters. The world record was set in January 2007 when a red-breasted merganser hen (circa 1875) by Lothrop Holmes of Kingston, MAmarker sold for $856,000(US).

In biochemistry

In biochemistry, there are decoy receptors, decoy substrates and decoy RNA. In addition, digital decoys are used in protein folding simulations.

Decoy receptor

A decoy receptor, or sink receptor , is a receptor that binds a ligand, inhibiting it from binding to its normal receptor. For instance, the receptor VEGFR-1 can prevent vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) from binding to the VEGFR-2

Decoy substrate

A decoy substrate or pseudosubstrate is a protein that has similar structure to the substrate of an enzyme, in order to make the enzyme bind to the pseudosubstrate rather than to the real substrate, thus blocking the activity of the enzyme. These proteins are therefore enzyme inhibitors.

Examples include 3KL produced by vaccinia virus, which prevents the immune system from phosphorylating the substrate eIF-2 by having a similar structure to eIF-2. Thus, the vaccinia virus avoids the immune system.

Digital decoys

In protein folding simulations, a decoy is a computer-generated protein structure which is designed so to compete with the real structure of the protein. Decoys are used to test the validity of a protein model; the model is considered correct only if is able to identify the native state configuration of the protein among the decoys.

Decoys are generally used to overcome a main problem in protein folding simulations: the enormity of the conformational space. For very detailed protein models, it can be practically impossible to explore all the possible configurations to find the native state.To deal with this problem, one can make use of decoys. The idea behind this is that it is unnecessary to search blindly through all possible conformations for the native conformation; the search can be limited to a relevant sub-set of structures. To start with, all non-compact configurations can be excluded.A typical decoy set will include globular conformations of various shapes, some having no secondary structures, some having helices and sheets in different proportions.The computer model being tested will be used to calculate the free energy of the protein in the decoy configurations. The minimum requirement for the model to be correct is that it identifies the native state as the minimum free energy state (see Anfinsen's dogma).

Decoys as folk art

Main article Waterfowl decoy collecting

Ever since Joel Barber, the first known decoy collector, started in 1918, decoys have become increasingly viewed as an important form of North American folk art. Barber's book Wild Fowl Decoys, was the first book on decoys as collectible objects. It was followed in 1965 by folk art dealer Adele Earnest's "The Art of the Decoy" and "American Bird Decoys" by collector Wm. F. Mackey.

By that time a milestone in collecting had already occurred with the publication of "Decoy Collectors Guide", a small magazine created by hobbyists Hal & Barbara Sorenson of Burlington, Iowa. The 'Guide' helped foster a sense of community and provided a forum for collectors to share their research.

By the 1970s decoys were becoming big business, at least by previous standards. The death of Wm. F. Mackey brought his decoys to market in a series of auctions in 1973 and 1974, with the star of his collection, a Long-billed Curlew by Wm. 'Bill' Bowman selling for a record US$10,500.

Since the 1960s numerous collectors organizations have been created, specialist books and magazines published, with specialist dealers, and special interest shows around the US and Canada.

The largest collectors organization is the Midwest Decoy Collectors Association (MDCA)which despite its name is the de facto international group. MDCA is a non-profit, [501(c)(3)] organization which sponsors the biggest show of the year. There are numerous state and regional groups as well.

The current World Record price for an antique duck decoy:Red Breasted Merganser Hen by Lothrop Holmes for $856,000. Guyette & Schmidt and Christie's New York. January 2007.

A new record was set when two decoys (Canada goose and a preening pintail drake) by A. Elmer Crowell of East Harwich, MA were sold for $1.13 million dollars each on September 19, 2007 by Stephen O'Brien Jr. Fine Arts, in what O'Brien describes as "the largest private sale of decoys ever." The decoys were part of a private sale of 31 decoys for $7.5 million. Joe Engers, Editor of Decoy Magazine, noted that O'Brien is one of the top dealers of decoys in the country.

Among other admired makers were the Ward brothers, Lemuel (1896-1984) and Steven, of Crisfieldmarker, Marylandmarker. Their career output is estimated at between 27,000 and 40,000 birds, working and decorative.

Fish decoy collecting is also quite popular. Especially ice fishing decoys. See also fishing lures.

See also


  1. Pleiotropic Action of VEGF in the CNS

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