BIO 203

It's Venom!! Someone call Spiderman!

Wait a minute! This is the wrong venom. Someone call Spiderman back and tell him it's a false alarm.  This venom is a toxin produced naturally and when it comes to the world around us, many organisms exist that can potentially harm us.  Most of these organisms that we might think of are big, monstrous animals from far off exotic places, but most people wouldn’t even consider smaller organisms that could look “cute”.  Some of these organisms have some of the most deadly toxins in the world. Some can kill many people with little venom.  For instance, the King Cobra, that beast of a snake has been found to have a venom powerful enough to bring down an elephant within three hours.  That is an extremely powerful venom, so “Don’t muck with it” as a conservationist named Steve Irwin once said.

But luckily, the King Cobra isn’t the Western Cottonmouth.  This organism has a different type of venom, called Hemotoxic venom.  Hemotoxic venom is a type of venom that breaks down and will destroy the blood cells and other tissues in the body additionally not allowing the blood to clot.  Additionally the hemotoxic agent (venom) is usually very painful and can cause permanent damage. Sometimes, the loss of a bitten limb is possible, even with medical treatment.

The venom itself is a combination of enzymes and proteins built together to aid in the killing of prey.  These toxic agents are also useful for the organism using the venom, because it is sometimes able to aid in the digestion of the prey by breaking down the proteins.  While this is happening, the snake is tracking the prey down, because the prey will tend to flee, but most often doesn’t get to far because of succumbing to shock and paralysis.

So comparing this to humans, when you are bitten and envenomated (medical terminology), the enzymes in the venom will begin to destroy your red blood cells (that will hurt), destroy the tissue (that will really hurt).  So really, the venom is basically beginning to digest the point where you were bitten.  Luckily there is an antidote! It’s called Anti-venom.

After learning about what the venom can do to kill you it would probably be a wise idea to send you to the page that can help you in times of crisis, aka being bitten by a venomous snake such as the cottonmouth. Go to the antivenom page, it may help you one day


Below is a list of other organisms that have been found to use venom as a means of predation and/or defense as well. Enjoy!

Common Jellyfish

Ritteri Anemone

Bird Eating Spider

Western Honey Bee

Portuguese Man-O-War

Lion Fish

Red Stonefish