7 Facts You Didn't Know About Poison and Toxic Animals7 Facts You Didn't Know About Poison and Toxic Animals

7 Facts You Didn’t Know About Poison and Toxic Animals , No,  we’re not talking about Marvel’s Venom. But when you think of venom, you might think of snakes and stinging insects. But there are many poisonous animals that you would never think of – even mammals or worms.

Some animals are more toxic than others, and most have completely different ways of producing their lethal chemical cocktails or using them on their attackers or prey. Many of the molecular mixtures that have evolved in the animal kingdom are so unique that they may even be used to treat human disease in ways that science cannot yet fathom. Although there is still much for scientists to learn, here is what we know so far.

1. Do not confuse poison with poison

There are two different types of toxicity – poisonous and poisonous, according to Tim Lüdecke, head of the Animal Poisons Laboratory at the Fraunhofer Institute in Giessen, Germany. Venomous animals are animals that have toxins that they can release passively – for example if they are touched or swallowed. Such is the case with the poison dart frog from South America: a colorful killer that releases poison through its skin and is considered one of the most toxic creatures on Earth.

“At the molecular level, venomous animal toxins are very, very small, because only if they are small can they be produced passively in an efficient way,” says Lüddecke. This is usually most useful against predators.

Read more: 5 dangerous animals that call the Amazon rainforest home

On the other hand, venomous animals need a method of injection for their toxins to take effect – by stinging or biting, for example – and their toxins go straight into the victim’s metabolism, so they’re a little bit bigger, molecularly. said. This method is useful for hunting, attacking and overcoming prey.

2. Poison can also help against its own kind

Adding to how venom can be used to both repel predators and attack prey, there is actually a third use of toxins called intraspecific competitionaccording to Lüddecke.

For example, the Australian platypus often engages in male-on-male combat to win the mating competition. During their feuds, the male platypus uses a small stinger on its hind legs to impale its competitor with powerful venom and incapacitate its opposition with pain.

3. It’s not just biting or stinging… it’s shooting

While the Australian platypus fights and the poison dart frog releases toxins, other species have a more sophisticated way of using their secret weapon.

“The strangest venomous animals are the ones you wouldn’t even look at,” says Lüddecke. “Like there are poisonous snails.” He was talking about cone snails, colorful but highly poisonous sea snails.

What makes them special is not just that they are unexpectedly lethal, but that they have developed highly sophisticated ways of injecting this venom. They do not have a stinger, instead having a proboscis through which they shoot poison darts, like harpoons, even at great distances to paralyze their prey.

Read more: Cone snail venom is a source of untapped potential for the treatment of chronic pain

“It’s part of the language, but it’s turned into a harpoon,” says Lüddecke. Two species of this snail have even killed humans, according to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

4. Target selects toxins

While there are numerous methods of spreading poison, there is also a wide variety of toxic cocktails that animals can create, as well as a wide range of effects that poison can have on any hapless victims.

“It always depends on what kind of prey you’re hunting and whether you have a wide variety in the diet or whether you’re super specialized,” says Mike Dahm, Ph.D. student in snake venom at the Technische Universität Berlin. The consensus among poison experts is that “the target chooses the toxins.”

Many vipers prey on small mammals with fast metabolisms, so they have developed a poison that acts on the circulatory system and disrupts coagulation. This causes blood clots in the brain, leading to rapid strokes and bleeding in the lungs and brain. Other snakes such as cobras, for example, have evolved to deliver venom that instead disrupts the transmission of signals to the nervous system – aka “neurotoxic” poisons. This is because most of these species like to nibble on cold-blooded prey, such as spiders and other arthropods, where blood-centered poisons would not have much effect.

“I think the most important thing is that poison is not just ‘poison,'” Dam says. “Each animal is so unique, and that’s the biggest challenge to study venom.”

The same kind of snake in a large country, for example, it can have a completely different type of poison depending on where it is regionally. meaning antidote that works in one geographic area does not work in another.

5. Almost all animal families have a poisonous sibling

There aren’t many reliable numbers on exactly how many species on this planet are toxic, according to Lüddecke. Some researchers estimate that 15 to 20 percent of animals are venomous, but because there is a huge variety of venomous animals – these numbers rise significantly.

“Every animal lineage, no matter how strange it is, or how advanced or primitive it is, very likely has a venomous member,” says Lüddecke. “What we see throughout the evolutionary tree of life is that venom has reinvented itself many times independently.”

The slow lory, an adorable-looking primate from Southeast Asia, actually emits a kind of flesh-decomposing poison from its teeth when it bites. It is one of the few venomous mammals known to science – in addition to the platypus, the sleazy one and vampire bats. And just like the platypus, it often uses venom to settle territorial or family disputes with its conspecifics.

Read more: 5 animals that are cute but not too friendly

6. Dinosaurs may have been poisonous

Given this reasoning that all animals appear to have at least one venomous member, Lüddecke and his team actually speculate that dinosaurs may also have been venomous. Although dinosaur glands and tissues have not been preserved throughout history, there may be hints of it in their teeth, according to Damm.

“They have some canals in their teeth that you can see in snakes and lizards as well,” Damm says. “So there are some hypotheses that dinosaurs could also inject some kind of bioactive glucose secretion. The hints are relatively large.”However, much more research is still needed in this area.

7. Some animals have lost their venom over time

The poison is ecologically expensive—it takes a lot of energy for the animals to make their own killer cocktails, which means they must be well-rested and fed at all times. So if something changes in an ecosystem and poison is no longer needed, an animal species may lose its ability to be poisoned over time.

“A very, very famous example is sea snakes, which tend to be among the most toxic snakes known to science,” Dam says.

Since they fed on fish at the bottom of the sea, they originally needed poison to kill fish that would otherwise run away too quickly to be caught. Now at least one species of sea snake has switched from eating fish to eating fish eggs, which are easier to eat because they can’t escape. Suddenly they no longer needed poison.

8. Learning more about poisons can greatly improve medicine

“It depends on how you calculate it, but we have between 11 and 16 drugs on the market that are derived from animal venoms,” says Lüddecke. “And most of them actually come from reptiles, especially snakes.”

A brilliant example of this, he says, is Captoprilwhich is based on the toxin from the South American lance viper and saves millions of lives every year. Other poisonous cocktails are currently being tested in laboratories for other diseases and conditions – such as stroke recovery, chronic pain or epilepsy.

Read more: Deadly animal venom could lead to pharmaceutical breakthroughs

“And these are just the creatures we’ve already looked at,” says Lüddecke. “But now we finally have the technological methods to look at the small, often overlooked animals as well.”

Spiders, for example, are thought to account for 50 percent of all biomolecules present in venoms, but only less than 1 percent of all spiders have been studied for their venomous properties.

“We are now living in an era of biodiversity loss, but we have not studied the majority of venomous species,” says Lüddecke. “All of the components in venoms are unique to that species, meaning that for every venomous species we lose due to biodiversity loss, we could also lose the next blockbuster drug.”

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