Poison VS. Venom!
I have pet peeves.
One of them is when people refer to “venom” as “poison,” or vice versa.
I don’t know why this bothers me, but apparently it’s enough to write about.
So I’m going to explain the difference, and then you can take this handy information to your next dinner party, and all the guests will think you’re sooo smart. Or a dork, as I’ve learned from personal experience.
Poison is absorbed. Poisons may be absorbed by the lungs via inhalation, or absorbed through the lining of your stomach or mucous membranes (eyes, mouth, nose). A lot of “poisonous” animals must be eaten or licked in order to deliver their toxins. There are a number of different poisons in the world: manmade chemicals (like bleach), plant poisons (like Poison Hemlock), and animal toxins (poison from glands in a Cane Toad). All of these must be inhaled or ingested to have effect.
Venom is injected. Venom requires a tool with which to do said injecting. Venoms are protein and enzyme cocktails that typically come in three flavors (some animals mix for efficiency): cytotoxic, hemotoxic, and neurotoxic. Cytotoxic wounds stay localized, but can result in severe tissue damage (and potentially amputation), shock, and vomiting. Hemotoxic bites lead to problematic blood clotting and attacks the heart tissue. Neurotoxic venom attacks the nerves and brain. Vipers and rattlesnakes, spiders, scorpions, bees, and wasps are venomous.
So, when you’re wondering if an animal is poisonous or venomous, just think about its method of delivery. Snakes, spiders, and wasps are venomous, and all are equipped with a syringe-like tool for injection. Dart frogs, toads, and salamanders are equipped, instead, with skin coatings or glands that possess the toxins.
Remember: Poison is typically ingested, while venom is injected.
Now, how about a pop quiz? See how many you can guess without looking them up first and I will post the answers tomorrow!
Poisonous, Venomous, or Non-Toxic?
Portuguese Man o’ War “Jellyfish”: P or V or NT? *
Male Platypus: P or V or NT?
Fire-bellied Newt: P or V or NT?
Blue-ringed Octopus: P or V or NT?
Gila Monster: P or V or NT?
Monarch Butterfly: P or V or NT?
The Hooded Pitohui, a New Guinean bird: P or V or NT?
Black Widow: P or V or NT?
Posted on August 16, 2010, in Biology/Ecology and tagged animals, black widow, cane toad, cytotoxic, dart frogs, difference poison venom, hemotoxic, invertebrates, nature, neurotoxic, newts, outdoors, plants, poison, poisonous, poisonous snakes, poisonous spiders, portuguese man o war, toxic, toxin, venom, venomous, wildlife. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.