Poisonous Animals

Toxic Terrors

Sharp claws and teeth aren't the only weapons animals possess. Many creatures use poisons to attack prey or defend themselves. Some of these animals store toxins in their glands and inject the poison. Other animals produce poisons in their skin. Here are some of the most poisonous animals in the world.

Poison arrow frog —Next time you're in the rain forests of Central or South America and you run into this little amphibian, don't pick it up: its skin contains a toxic chemical that sickens or kills any animal that touches or eats it. Two micrograms of its toxin (easily enough to fit on the head of pin) will kill a large mammal-or even a person.

Stonefish —Found in the waters of the Pacific and around Australia, this homely fish looks like a rock or piece of coral. Well camouflaged, it attacks any fish that swims nearby. A powerful toxin stored in its 13 spines can stop any predator in its tracks. In humans, the venom causes intense pain, swelling of tissue, shock and, eventually, death.

Inland taipan —Native to Australia, it is considered the most poisonous snake on earth. One bite contains enough potent toxin (110 milligrams) to kill about 100 people. Its toxin can cause vomiting and will stop a person from breathing. Luckily, the taipan is a very shy and gentle reptile.

Box jellyfish —Found in ocean waters in Asia and Australia, this dangerous critter tries to avoid other creatures. Swimmers should definitely avoid it. Bump into its tentacles by accident and its stingers will deliver a powerful punch. In addition to causing excruciating pain for weeks, its venom can stop the heart or paralyze the lungs, as well as eat away at the skin.

Blue-ringed octopus —The bite of this octopus doesn't hurt, but the neurotoxins in its saliva quickly begin their deadly work. Within minutes, a person bitten will experience numbness, muscular weakness and soon after, the victim will stop breathing and die.

Death stalker scorpion —Found in North Africa and Middle East, its name says it all. Although its stinger isn't particularly large or strong, a sting from this, the most toxic scorpion in the world, causes unbearable pain, fever, coma, convulsions, paralysis and death.

Sydney funnel-web spider —Australia is home to many venomous creatures, and this arachnid is one of the worst. Large and aggressive, it produces among the most powerful toxins of any spider. It places a web across the entrance to its burrow. Don't enter! Its fangs deliver a neurotoxin that causes great pain and can kill a person in 15 minutes. Its venom doesn't affect most mammals-just us!

Marbled cone snail —This slow-moving snail lives in reefs the world over. It uses venom to catch its prey. Sitting inside its shell, the snail sends out a kind of nose, called a proboscis. A sharp tooth at its end acts like a harpoon. The venom, a neurotoxin, travels through the tooth into the victim, paralyzing it almost immediately. Humans who have been bitten experience weakness, numbness, nausea and finally death, when the lungs stop working.


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