Venom is a toxin or combination of toxins that a creature injects through biting or stinging. There are countless creatures on Earth that are capable of delivering venoms to humans that range from slightly irritating to deadly. Despite their deadly venom, many of these creatures do not pose a significant threat to humans because they are shy and reclusive. Others that possess deadly venom are made even more deadly for the fact that they are aggressive and are not intimidated by humans. Others still are deadly because humans happen upon them by chance and are envenomed before the creature or the human can make a choice to stay or go. Below are creatures of all these groups that have one thing in common – they possess extremely deadly venom.
Very Deadly Venom: Blue-Ringed Octopus
Blue-ringed octopi are so named because of the vivid blue rings that appear on their skin when they are threatened. Otherwise, they are typically brown in color. They are very small creatures (about the size of a golf ball when fully grown). Therefore, if you are walking in a Pacific tidal pool from Australia to Japan or a little west and you see a small brown blob or a golf-ball with blue rings, leave immediately. Stepping on one of these beautiful, but deadly, creatures can quickly lead to your death.
It is thought that blue-ringed octopi deliver their venom through a bite. It may also deliver through the skin, in which case it would be a poison rather than venom. Whatever the case, you do not want to be on the receiving end. Their venom contains maculotoxin and tetrodotoxin (think pufferfish) It causes paralysis, namely of the respiratory system. Unless someone begins breathing for you almost immediately, you will die. They also need to start massaging your heart soon after. If this is accomplished and continued for the next 24 hours, you will survive without any long-term complications. If you are alone or with someone who does not know to start CPR, a dose of this venom will get you a one-way ticket to a coffin. There is no antivenin.
Very Deadly Venom: Inland Taipan
The inland taipan is a 6-8 foot snake that lives in the dry plains of eastern and southern Australia. They change color with the seasons, being lightest (brown) in summer and black in winter. Their heads are often darker than the rest of their bodies. They are reclusive and do not often encounter humans. They would rather hide if they do. Nonetheless, they will still bite when provoked.
The inland taipain is often said to be the most venomous snake in the world. Its venom is the deadliest of all snakes found on land and it can deliver enough to kill you in roughly 45 minutes. Its venom contains powerful neurotoxins and procoagulants. This means it can paralyze you and affect the blood clotting process. Bleeding is a serious concern. Their bites can also cause renal failure. Thankfully, there is an antivenin, if you can get to it in time.
Very Deadly Venom: Australian Box Jellyfish
The Australian box jellyfish is an extremely feared sea creature and with good reason. Its body is box-shaped and it has up to 60 tentacles that can grow up to 10 feet long. Each tentacle contains 5,000 nematocysts (the things they sting you with). They are transparent light blue, making them nearly impossible to see, if you are not looking for them. You should be on the lookout for them off the northern coast of Australia and in the Indo-Pacific area.
The venom of Australian box jellyfish is cardiotoxic, neurotoxic and dermatonecrotic. That means it attacks your heart, rots tissue and attacks your nervous system. The sting of this creature is so painful that victims often go into shock instantly. A large sting (many stinging cells make contact) can cause a victim to go into cardiac arrest within minutes. Little stings are not as bad, but a big sting spells certain death if you are alone.
Necrosis sets in at the site of the sting, leaving telltale scars. The tentacles stick to the victim and need to be removed before the damage worsens. The only way to do this is by pouring vinegar on them and then removing them. (Do not handle with your bare hands)
These animals should be avoided at all times. Seeking them out or keeping them as pets (as people often do with blue-ringed octopi) is foolhardy. Just because you will not certainly die, does not mean you will not regret it if you are envenomed. Other animals that should be avoided because of their venom are the Brazilian wandering spider (bite causes priapism, which needs to be treated immediately) and the death stalker scorpion (aggressive animal), the bite and sting of these animals causes excruciating pain.
Blue-Ringed Octopus, retrieved 11/10/10, marinebio.org/species.asp?id=403
Facts About Inland Taipan, retrieved 11/10/10, lifestyle.iloveindia.com/loounge/facts-about-inland-taipan-7433.html
Box Jellyfish, retrieved 11/10/10, animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/box-jellyfish.html