Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Venomous Mammals, Birds and a Little Spanish Fly

I recently dreamt I was swimming in a pool full of these fish but didn't get stung
[Photo: Sujit Mahapatra]

Poisonous spiders, insects, snakes and fish abound on this planet and not just in Australia. Although, not surprisingly, one of the poisonous creatures we're going to be looking at can be found there. Take the Duck-billed Platypus, for example.

So cute
[photo: TwoWings]

Nature laughs at the Platypus. She chose to make it a mammal but neglected to give it mammary equipment and teats. The Platypus has to secrete its milk onto its foot and hope for the best. However, Nature did give the male a specialized spur on its back legs for delivering poison strong enough to painfully incapacitate a human and kill a dog. But it's poison, see, and it takes time for it to work. The dog will still have time to shake the platypus to death, toss it around like a Frisbee, leave it in a bloody, limp pile and then fall over dead. So Nature, poisonous platypus? Why?!




Next, the European mole. It's venom contains toxins that paralyze earthworms. Seriously scary news to any earthworm reading here, I'm sure.

European mole
[photo: Didier Descouens]

Eurasian Water Shrew has venomous saliva, although it is not able to puncture the skin of large animals such as humans. Highly territorial, it lives a solitary life and is found throughout northern Eurasia, from Ireland to North Korea

Eurasian water shrew
Toxic cuteness

The Cuban solenodon was declared extinct in 1970, but was rediscovered in 1974. Since 1982, it has been listed as an endangered species, in part because it only breeds a single litter of one to three in a year, and because of the animals introduced into its habitat by humans.

Cuban Solenodon (not a dinosaur)
[Photo: Bert S. Geidenissite]

In  the case of the shrew and the solenodon (I'm sorry, it sounds like the name of a dinosaur) the venom is delivered from modified salivary glands via grooves in their second lower incisors.

Poisonous elbows next.

This is a GIF of a slow Loris. That's how slow they are.

The slow Loris is both toxic and poisonous. It secretes poison from glands in its elbows, smears it onto its young and dares anyone or anything to eat them. It also licks the poison so its saliva and bite become toxic as well.

Here's a poisonous bird for your consideration:

Hooded Pitohui
[Photo: Markaharper1]

No species of bird is known to actively inject venom, but some birds are known to be poisonous to touch or eat. These birds usually sequester in their bodies toxins from animals and plants that they feed on, commonly from poisonous insects.

"Yes, hold me, my friend, and prepare to pay.
With fits of sneezing!"

The hooded pitohui is a songbird from New Guinea. Its skin, as well as feathers, contain a very powerful poison called homobatrachotoxin. This is the same poison found in South American dart frogs, although it is severely less toxic than the frogs, and a whole bird would have to be eaten for any real harm to occur. The poison is transferred easily to humans by merely touching or handling the bird. [source]

Interesting that the Pitohui's name sounds like the noise someone makes when they're spitting something poisonous out of their mouth.

Ugly? Don't even go there, Pussy.

The African Spur-winged Goose is toxic to eat, toxic enough to seriously mess up a person. And why is this?

This is a blister beetle

Some spur winged geese populations (those in the Gambia) feed on a poisonous beetle and then sequester the beetle’s poison into their own tissues. Blister beetles are well known for producing the toxin cantharidin, small amounts of which (as little as 10 milligrams) cause death in humans. 

The effect of cantharidin on the urinary tract (it results in swelling of the genitalia) means that people have been using it as an aphrodisiac for centuries; the Spanish fly Lytta vesicatori is a blister beetle. So the result of blister beetle ingestion by spur-winged geese is that their flesh is toxic. Eating one can – apparently – result in death. Read more here.

1 comment:

Frimmy said...

Oh yeah, I forgot this little rodent. The maned crested rat from Africa.