Top 10 Venomous Animals You Never Knew Were Venomous

Wild Platypus
Wild platypus in a creek in Tasmania. Image credit: Klaus cc2.0

Top 10 Venomous Animals You Never Knew Were Venomous

Wild Platypus
Wild platypus in a creek in Tasmania. Image credit: Klaus cc2.0

Venom and poison are essentially the same thing. They are both toxic, harmful, deadly even in the worst circumstances. “Venomous” and “poisonous”, however, are two different terms, and the difference lies in how the toxins are transferred.

When you say poisonous, it means that a plant or an animal carries the toxins in its body, either in one part or in several. When the poisonous plant or animal is touched, smelled or eaten, the toxins are then transferred to the individual, causing sickness or even death. On the other hand, venomous animals carry the poison in special glands and deliberately deliver it to their prey or those who threaten them, usually through sharp body parts such as fangs or stingers.

The most common venomous animals are snakes, spiders and scorpions. Honey bees are venomous, as well, and so are jellyfish. In fact, several species of box jellyfish are among the most venomous creatures in the world. These other animals are venomous, too, though you may not know it yet.

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1. European Mole

Photo by Zoph cc 3.0

The European, or common, mole looks practically harmless. In fact, it looks as if it doesn’t even have eyes — though it actually has very small ones buried under thick fur. This underground dweller, however, has a secret weapon. Using its teeth, the European mole injects venom into its favorite prey — earthworms — paralyzing them in order to eat them more easily or store them for later meals. European moles have to eat a lot in order to survive, after all — about half of their body weight each day — and while they also eat mealworms, maggots, mice and shrews, earthworms are without a doubt their favorite.

2. Shrews & Solenodons


Shrew by Yathin sk cc3.0

Shrews look like mice, except with fatter bodies and longer snouts. They are, however, not related to mice. In fact, they are not even rodents, but insectivorous mammals that are more closely related to moles. One more thing about shrews? Some of them are venomous.

That’s right. At least six species of shrews have venom in their saliva, which they use to paralyze their prey. These include the Eurasian water shrew, the Mediterranean water shrew and the shrews in the genus Blarina, such as the northern short-tailed shrew, southern short-tailed shrew, Elliot’s short-tailed shrew and the evergreen short-tailed shrew.

Using their senses of smell and hearing, or, in the case of the northern short-tailed shrew, echolocation, these shrews hunt prey above or under the ground, mainly insects, earthworms, snails, lizards, salamanders and small rodents such as mice and voles. They stalk their prey and catch it using their front paws, then inject a good amount of their venomous saliva through the grooves between their teeth. In this way, they can eat their prey without a fuss, or store it for future meals.

Don’t worry, though. In spite of the horror movie Killer Shrews, no shrew has ever been recorded killing a human. While their bites can hurt, the toxin delivered isn’t enough to be harmful. In fact, shrew venom can even prove helpful for humans, since scientists have discovered that it can be used to treat migraines, hypertension and even wrinkles. (Don’t be surprised if you see an anti-aging cream with shrew venom on shelves soon.)


Hispaniolan solenodon (Solenodon paradoxus) by Seb az86556 cc3.0

Solenodons, which are closely related to shrews, carry venom in their saliva as well. Currently, only two species of solenodons are known — the Cuban solenodon and the Hispaniolan solenodon. These are larger than shrews, with even longer snouts, and use echolocation in order to find prey.

3. Male Platypus

Wild Platypus 4 by Klaus cc2.0

The platypus is one of the world’s weirdest and most fascinating creatures. It has the bill of a duck equipped with electroreceptors, the tail of an otter and webbed feet. The females lay eggs and, strangely, produce milk through their skin. The males, though, may be even stranger, since they carry venom.

Male platypuses have venom sacs and spurs on their hind feet, which they use to deliver the toxins. While they mostly use these spurs during fights with each other for mates, they can also use them when threatened, and are able to kill small animals up to the size of a small dog.

For more on the platypus:
12 Duck-Billed Platypus Facts (Why Is the Platypus So Weird?)
Platypus videos

4. Vampire Bat

Common Vampire Bat, Desmodus rotundus, running on the ground. By Uwe Schmidt cc 4.0

Venom is defined as any substance that causes harm to the living being it is administered to. Using this definition, a vampire bat is considered venomous. After all, its saliva contains several compounds, one of which prevents blood from clotting (anticoagulant).

The three species of vampire bats are among the few animals in existence who feed solely on blood. The common vampire bat feeds on the blood of mammals, preferably cattle, goats and horses, while the hairy-legged and white-winged vampire bats suck the blood of birds. Once a vampire bat finds its host, it looks for the best place to bite. If there is fur covering the spot, they shave away the hairs like a razor. If there is none, they simply take a bite, lapping up the blood. They usually feed for 10 to 20 minutes so, in order to prevent the wound from closing until then, they have a special anticoagulant compound in their saliva. Only when they are done eating does the wound close and start to heal, though the bat is likely return to feed on the same host and maybe even the same spot.

For more on the vampire bat:
Vampire bat videos
Vampire Bats Attack Penguin Chicks for BLOOD!
Vampire bats crawl to their victims.

5. Coral

Image by Kazvorpal cc3.0

Not everyone knows this, but corals are actually animals. In fact, they are closely related to jellyfish and baby coral look just like tiny jellyfish, floating around until they find some place to attach to. When they do, they build limestone shells to protect themselves with. Many algae live on these shells, feeding on the coral’s waste products and supplying it with oxygen in turn.

Now here’s something else you probably didn’t know — some corals are venomous. Those in the order Zoantharia, in particular, contain a highly toxic substance which they can deliver through their tentacles, and which can be fatal if it reaches the bloodstream. Because of this, using gloves is always recommended when handling coral.

Fire coral is venomous, as well, with its stings able to cause pain, nausea, vomiting and sometimes, anaphylactic shock. Fire coral, however, is not true coral, but belongs to a different group of marine animals.

6. Sharks

We all know sharks can be deadly, but did you know that some sharks can cause harm even without using their teeth? The spiny dogfish, the Port Jackson shark and the horn shark are three species of sharks that have venomous spines right in front of their dorsal fins. When caught or threatened, these relatively small sharks curl up and present their spines, which can cause nasty stings. Fortunately the stings aren’t deadly, but they still hurt and can swell for a few days.

Spiny Dogfish

Spiny Dogfish by NOAA

Port Jackson Shark

Port Jackson shark
The Port Jackson Shark by PhotoGenicCreativity cc2.0

Horn Shark

Horn Shark
Horn Shark (Heterodontus francisci) by Cliff cc2.0

7. Komodo Dragon

Komodo dragon, Varanus komodoensis (Ragunan Zoo, Jakarta, Indonesia) by Midori cc3.0

It is a fact that the Komodo dragon is a lizard to be feared. After all, it not only grows up to 10 feet (3 meters) long, but it is also a fierce predator with a voracious appetite and a keen sense of smell. It can knock down animals larger than itself with its strong tail and then deliver a deadly bite.

For years, it was thought that the deadly bite was due to the copious amounts of bacteria in the Komodo dragon’s mouth. However, recent reports have confirmed that the Komodo dragon’s saliva does have venom. Furthermore, the venom contains some compounds as deadly as those in the venom of the inland taipan, which some consider the world’s deadliest snake.

For more on the Komodo dragon:
Komodo dragon videos
25 Most Deadly Animals in the World

8. Caterpillars

Caterpillars eventually wrap themselves up in cocoons and emerge as butterflies or moths, but before that, they spend a lot of time crawling and eating. During this time, they are at risk of getting eaten by birds, so some have developed an efficient defense mechanism — venomous spines.

Furry Puss Caterpillar

Furry Puss Caterpillar by Amizrachi cc4.0

The furry puss caterpillar is believed to be the most venomous. In spite of its cuddly appearance, its soft hair hides sharp spines which when pricked, can cause worse pain than bee stings. According to those who have been stung, the pain seeps into the bones and spreads over a large area, lasting for up to 12 hours.

Giant Silkworm Moth Caterpillar

Photo take by Michael K. Oliver, Ph.D. cc4.0

Another contender for most venomous caterpillar is the giant silkworm moth caterpillar, which has been responsible for several deaths in southern Brazil. This is because its venom is fast-acting and contains a potent anticoagulant, causing hemorrhage. Other venomous caterpillars include the buck moth caterpillar, the flannel moth caterpillar, the hag caterpillar and the saddleback caterpillar.

9. Blue-Ringed Octopus

Blue-Ringed Octopus, Mabul Island, Malaysia. By Angell Williams cc2.0

The blue-ringed octopus has been described as one of the world’s cutest creatures, with the blue and black rings they sport on their yellowish skin. They are so cute that some people have picked them up from the ocean floor — and paid the price.

This octopus possesses a deadly venom, which some say is one of the world’s deadliest. Even though it is less than 8 inches (20.3 centimeters) long, its venom is enough to kill a fully grown human by paralyzing muscles and preventing oxygen from reaching the blood or the brain. This, of course, can lead to death within minutes, if left untreated.

The blue-ringed octopus isn’t the only venomous octopus, though. In fact, a recent study shows that all octopuses may well carry venom similar to that which snakes have.

10. Hedgehogs

Hedgehog – free use by seymoursimages cc2.0

A hedgehog’s spines aren’t hollow and connected to a sac of venom like true venomous creatures such as scorpionfish, lionfish and stingrays. However, many people argue that hedgehogs are venomous because they put toxins on their spines, which in turn inject poison into their attackers.

Most hedgehogs are immune to the venom of animals such as wasps, toads and snakes, which they eat. Apparently, these venomous animals have more use than just food, though. Some hedgehogs get the toxins from these animals and spread it onto their spines, so that anything that makes the mistake of touching them is sure never to make that mistake again.

What do you know?

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Top 10 Animals You Didn’t Know Were Venomous!



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