Poison vs Venom

Do you know the difference between poison and venom? If you think you do, take the quiz below and record your answers. You can take the quiz again (it’s pasted below the post, too) after reading to see if your answers change.

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?

___________________________

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 an irritating – or deadly – effect.

Venom is injected. Venom requires a tool with which to do said injecting (such as a stinger or fangs). 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. Hemotoxins lead to problematic blood clotting and attack the heart tissue. Neurotoxic venom attacks the nerves and brain. Vipers and rattlesnakes, spiders, scorpions, bees, and wasps are venomous.

Source: Merriam-Webster

So, when you’re wondering if an animal is poisonous or venomous, just think about its method of delivery and there the toxin hangs out. Snakes, spiders, and wasps all have a gland where the venom lives, but they use a tool to inject it. Dart frogs, toads, and salamanders are equipped with poison glands that push the toxins out onto the surface of their skin where it just hangs out, waiting to be licked.

Remember: Poison is typically ingested, while venom is injected.

Now, how about that quiz? See how many you can guess without looking them up first and follow the link at the end to check your answers!

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?

The Portuguese Man O’ War is not actually a jellyfish.

Click here to check your answers!

Phantasmal Dart Frog by LiquidGhoul on Wiki

Posted on August 16, 2010, in Biology/Ecology, Versus and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I’m guilty of previously thinking that the two words were interchangeable. Thanks for setting me straight! :-)

  2. :) Most people are. And, honestly, it doesn’t really matter. It’s just one of those things I get to be annoyed by because I’m a snobby knowitall naturalist-type.

  3. Oooh, this is just the kind of esoteric detail I love! i didn’t know this before–thanks!

  4. ;o) When you get a chance, you’re welcome to visit my blog at http://www.patriciaklichen.com !

  5. Wow, you just made my day–actually, my week! And thanks very much for selling those books at the Center!

  6. What is more annoying is when I watch something on Nat Geo or other such channel and the narrator keeps saying poisonous in place of venomous. Grinds my gears.

  1. Pingback: Rattlesnake Musings. « The Roaming Naturalist

  2. Pingback: Venomous Mammals: Too Cool to Be True? « The Roaming Naturalist

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