Venoms: Striking Beauties

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Venoms 101

Venom Basics
Venoms Quiz
Venoms Websites

velvet ant waspVenom Basics

Some of the world’s loveliest creatures are also the most lethal creatures. Why?

Because they produce and use venom — an injected toxin — to capture prey and deter predators. Many people think that only snakes and spiders are venomous, but a variety of animals, both from land and sea, use venom.

Consider the superbly camouflaged stonefish whose extremely sharp, venom-filled spines have caused human fatalities, usually when people accidentally stepped on the fish while wading. Or the Vietnamese Giant Centipede that can easily chase down and kill insects, lizards, snakes, toads, and mice. This centipede can give humans a serious and painful, but rarely fatal, bite.

Venom gives animals a deadly edge in survival. By injecting toxins, venomous animals can kill prey larger and faster than themselves and deter even the most threatening predator.

It is this deadly and "dangerous" nature of venom that makes venomous animals so interesting to us, and the fact that many of them are strikingly beautiful.

Poison vs. Venom

These terms are often used interchangeably, but they actually have very different meanings. It is the delivery method that distinguishes one from the other. Poison is absorbed or ingested; a poisonous animal can only deliver toxic chemicals if another animal touches or eats it. Venom, on the other hand, is always injected. Every venomous animal has a mechanism to inject toxins directly into another animal. Stab with tails. Slash with spines. Pierce with fangs. Spike with spurs. Shoot with harpoons. Chew with teeth.

Poisonous or Venomous?

arboreal tarantula


Arboreal Tarantula Avicularia avicularia

This tree-dwelling tarantula injects toxins with its fangs, killing insects, small mammals, and other prey: it’s venomous. This tarantula’s mild venom is not dangerous to humans.


Poisonous or Venomous?

poison dart frog


Poison Dart Frog Dendrobates azureus

These frogs secrete a toxic substance from their skin, causing sickness or even death to animals that touch or eat them. But the frogs have no way to inject their toxins: they’re poisonous, not venomous. This species has mild toxins that wouldn’t hurt a human, but other species are extremely potent.

Photo by Charles Fox  


Color Me Deadly

purple sea urchinMany animals advertise their venom with color, behavior, or sound - bright colors and threatening behaviors signal danger. Predators instinctively know or learn to avoid animals with those colors or behaviors, even those that aren’t venomous. Some non-venomous animals mimic the colors or behaviors of venomous animals to scare off predators.

The Eastern coral snake is best known for its dramatic coloration: rings of red, yellow and black make this animal strikingly distinctive. But don’t be fooled: the non-venomous Scarlet king snake mimics the Eastern coral snake, but its rings of red, yellow and black appear in a different order.

To distinguish non-venomous mimics from coral snakes, remember this rhyme,

Black on yellow, kill a fellow
Red on black, friend of Jack.

Alright, if you think you're so smart, take the Venoms Quiz!


Venoms Websites
Venoms Bibliography
California Academy of Sciences Library


Poison Dart Frog Dendrobates azureus

Helix Productions - Blue Poison Frog (Dendrobates azureus)

National Aquarium in Baltimore - Poison Dart Frog

University of Michigan-Museum of Zoology - Dendrobatidae

Dendrobates asureus


Blue-ringed Octopus Hapalochlaena lunulata

Blue-ringed Octopus (Hapalochlaena lunulata) - The Cephalopod Page

Pet Wherehouse — Blue-ringed octopus

Underwater World — Perth, Australia

California Wild — Eye of the Newt, Skin of Toad, Bile of the Pufferfish


Corals Catalaphyllia jardinei and Millpora sp.

Elegance Coral (Catalaphyllia jardinei)

Sea World

Coelenterate and Jellyfish Envenomations


Marbled Cone Snail — Conus marmoreus

Cone Shells by Tidal Region

About Cone Shells

Doctor Snail — Cone Snails

Cone Snail Web


Moon Jelly Aurelia labiata

Oregon Coast Aquarium Newport-jelly cam - Oregon Moon Jelly (Aurelia labiata)

Save The Bay- Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island - Moon Jelly (Aurelia aurita)

South Carolina Dept. of Natural Resources- Sea Science - Moon Jelly (Aurelia aurita)

University of Michigan-Museum of Zoology - Moon Jelly (Aurelia aurita)


Nudibranch Hermissenda crassicornis

Nudibranch of the Week

Nudibrnch of the Week II

Aquarium Frontiers without a Backbone


Sea Anenome Heteractis magnifica

Sea Anemone (Heteractis magnifica)

Cautious Coral Enterprises — Heteractis magnifica

FishDomain.Com — Heteractis megnifica


Sea Wasp Jelly Chironex fleckeri

Australian Venomous Marine Creatures- Australian Venom Research Unit - Sea Wasp Jelly (Chironex fleckeri)

Animal Diversity- University of Michigan -

Marine Stinger, Sea Wasp Jelly (Chironex fleckeri)

University of Melbourne — Department of Pharmacology - Box Jellyfish or Sea Wasp

Waikiki Aquarium - Box Jellies


Upside-down Jelly Cassiopea andromeda

University of Michigan-Museum of Zoology - Upside-down Jelly (Cassiopea andromeda)

Tennessee Aquarium - Upside-down Jelly (Cassiopea xamachama)



Dwarf Lionfish Dendrochirus brachypterus

Dwarf Lionfish (Dendrochirus brachypterus)

Venomous Fish


Scorpionfish Scorpaena brasilensis

National Aquarium in Baltimore

Distribution of the barbfish

Stonefish Synanceia verrucosa

Reef Stonefish

Venomous Fish



Arboreal Tarantula Avicularia avicularia

Arboreal Tarantula/Pink Toe (Avicularia avicularia)

Crystal Palace Reptiles - Arboreal Tarantula/Pink Toe (Avicularia avicularia)

Pinktoe Tarantula Care Sheet

Black Widow Laterodectus hesperus

Desert USA


Death Stalker Scorpion Leiurus quinquestriatus

Leiurus quinquestriatus picture

Venom & Stings

The Scorpions


Emperor Scorpion Pandinus imperator

Emperor Scorpion

Animal Fact Sheets


Fire Worm Eurythoe complanata

Fireworm (Eurythoe complanata)


Giant Hairy Scorpion Hadrurus spadix

Scorpion Fauna of California

Scott Stockwell Scorpion Photographs


Goliath Bird Eater Theraphosa blondi

Arachnophiliac — Therapohosa blondi Care Sheet

Tarantula Planet


Oriental Tarantula Poecilotheria regalis

Indian Ornamental Tarantula (Poecilotheria regalis)

Tarantula Planet - Tarantula Terminology


South African Fat-tailed Scorpion Parabuthus transvaalensis

Dangerous scorpions

Poisons and Toxins

Sydney Funnel-Web Spider Atrax robustus

Clinical Toxinology- CSL Funnel Web Spider Antivenom

Australian Museum Online - Funnel-web Spiders (Atrax robustus)

Rochedale School Australia - Sydney Funnel Web Spiders

Austaralasian Anaesthesia - Australian Spider and Insect Bites

Velvet Ant

Michigan Entomological Society - Wanderers on the Sand–the Velvet Ants (Hymenoptera)

National IPM Network — North Carolina - Velvet Ants (Hymenoptera)

Penn State University - Velvet Ant (Hymenoptera)

Pittsylvania County Schools - Velvet Ant (Hymenoptera)

University of Kentucky of Entomology - Velvet Ants

Manzanita Project — California Academy of Sciences

Vietnamese Giant Centipede Scolopendra subpinipes

Scolopendra page
http://www.ilinkusa.- net/~100legs/

Urban Knowledge Master



Solenodon Solenodon paradoxus

Solenodon paradoxus

Haitian Solenodon


Platypus Ornithorhynchus anatinus

Animal Diversity Web — University of Michigan

Creature World — Platypus

Wildlife Information and Rescue Service Australia


Slow Loris Nycticebus coucang

Animal Diversity Web — University of Michigan$narrative.html

Duke Primate Center

Victoria’s Three Great Zoos


Trowbridge Shrew Sorex trowbridgii

Mammals of Oregon

Southern California Natural History

Biodiversity of the Truckee, Carson and Walker Watersheds



Copperhead Agkistrodon contortrix

Animal Diversity — University of Michigan$narrative.html

Georgia Wildlife Federation

Massachussets Snakes

Coral Snake Micrurus fulvius

Venoms — Coral Snake\

Florida Venomous Snakes

Eastern Coral Snake$narrative.html


Gila Monster Heloderma suspectum

Animal Diversity Web$narrative.html

Gila Monster — Desert USA

Gila Monster

Manzanita Project — California Academy of Sciences


Inland Taipan Oxyuranus microlepidotus

Inland Taipan

Oxyuranus microlepidotus

Inland Taipan

Oxyuranus Taipans


Mangrove Snake Boiga dendrophia

Oakland Zoo — Mangrove Snake

Mangrove Snake — Utah’s Hogle Zoo


Northern Pacific Rattlesnake Crotalus viridis oreganus

Care of the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake

Images — Manzanita Project (California Academy of Sciences)

Avoiding Wildlife Problems — Rattlesnakes (UC Davis)


Rhinoceros Viper Bitis nasicornis

Reptiles of the Impenetrable Forest — Bob Drewes (California Academy of Sciences)

WhoZoo — Ft. Worth Zoo

Animal Diversity Web — University of Michigan


Scarlet Kingsnake Lampropeltis triangulum elapsoides

Scarlet Kingsnake

Scarlet Kingsnake


Spitting Cobras

National Geographic — Dispatches from Myanmar

Malayan Cobra — Utah’s Hogle Zoo

Britannica Online - Cobras,5716,303852,00.html

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