Venomous Animals (Deadly Animals With Amazing Cures)

When most people think of venomous animals, their first reaction is to think of snakes.  This is an accurate thought process as snakes are indeed venomous animals, infamous for killing individuals in a terrible way.  However, snakes are not the only creatures that have evolved a chemical defense like venom.  There are venomous birds, frogs, fish, even mollusks!  The duck billed platypus contains a venomous barb on its hind paws that it can use for defense.    Today’s post will deal with one of these venomous animals that should be coming into fame soon.  The Geographic Cone Snail. 

A handfull of various types of Conidae shells

Conus geographus belongs to a family of snails known as the Conidae.  Snails belonging to this family are distinguished by having a cone shaped shell.  We often see these for sale on Hawaiian necklaces or at shell stores.  The geographic cone snail  is an amazing beautiful creature but has a deadly venom.  This small snail is packed with a potent venom known as Conotoxin.  This venom is a classic nicotenic acetylcholinesterase inhibitor.  It blocks the re-uptake of acetylcholine into the nervous system.  Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter often responsible for muscle movement.  When the inhibitor for acetylcholine is blocked, tons of it builds up in the neurosynapses.  This causes the body to convulse and go rigid due to over signaling.  Eventually you cannot exhale and you suffocate and die.

A Cone Snail with its harpoon excised

Conotoxin, therefore, is a wonderful weapon for Conus geographus to use to capture prey.  This tiny snail can actually eat a fish whole!  It has a proboscis which it uses like a nose.  It searchers around for food and when it smells it, it injects a harpoon like structure into the skin of the prey.  This harpoon pumps the deadly conotoxin into the prey causing it to become paralyzed.  It then devours the food alive.

A molecule of Conotoxin

What is amazing about this compound is that it has pharmaceutical applications.  A novel drug has been developed from it.  The drug, known as conotropin, is a powerful analgesic, pain killer.   Said to be 1,000 times more powerful than morphine with no known side effects, Conotropin, has the potential to help thousands of sufferers of pain worldwide.  People with debilitating ailments such as sciatica can now rely on this drug to finally give them relief without destroying their bodies.  This drug is still in clinical trials however so look for it in the near future.


Posted on November 20, 2009, in Scientific Research and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. The reason that there are no side effects with conotoxin derivatives is because these neurotransmitters bond with only a single channel in the nervous system, not with anything else in the body. Conventional painkillers (whether OTC or prescription) can bond with thousands of different chemicals in the body, and this is what produces side effects. Ironically, though, some of the most dangerous (to humans) cone snails’ toxins cause excruciating pain, and competent medical authorities have even reported that there are cases of people dying from the pain alone (of a cone snail sting). Whatever, the toxin of conus geographus was used as a suicide agent (kept in a silver dollar or ring, etc.) by the CIA until it was banned for this use after coming to light by U.S. Senate Intelligence Oversight Committee hearing chaired by Senator Frank Church of Idaho. Also, it should be known that the most deadly cone snail toxins are far worse than the vastly overrated toxin of the brown box jellyfish.

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