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There’s no way around it, the world is a dangerous place. Some organisms, to deal with the hostility of our planet, have developed defenses that are much more direct than claws or teeth.

But before we can go any further, let’s distinguish between venom and poison. The terms poison and venom are often used interchangeably, but they actually have very different meanings. It is the delivery method that distinguishes one from the other. Poison is absorbed or ingested; a poisonous animal can only deliver toxic chemicals if another animal touches or eats it. Venom, on the other hand, is always injected. Every venomous animal has a mechanism to inject toxins directly into another animal. Stab with tails. Slash with spines. Pierce with fangs. Spike with spurs. Shoot with harpoons. Chew with teeth.

For example, frogs are usually poisonous while snakes are usually venomous.

Below are 10 animals that have harnessed the chemical warfare of venoms, toxins, and poisons to their own benefit; these animals would certainly make you dead in a hurry.

1. Box Jellyfish

The top prize for “The World Most Venomous Animal,” would go to the Box Jelly (biologists have dropped the “fish” from “jellyfish” as it is a misnomer). It has caused at least 5,567 recorded deaths since 1954. It’s toxins attack the heart, nervous system, and skin cells. And the worst part of it is that box jelly venom is so overpoweringly painful, that human victims go straight into shock, and drown or die of heart failure before even reaching shore. Survivors experience pain weeks after the contact with box jellies.

You have virtually no chance to survive the venomous sting, unless treated immediately. After a sting, vinegar should be applied for a minimum of 30 seconds. Vinegar has acetic acid, which disables the box jelly’s nematocysts that have not yet discharged into the bloodstream (though it will not alleviate the pain). Wearing panty hose while swimming is also a good prevention measure since it can prevent jellies from being able to harm your legs. –Box jellies can be found in the waters around Asia and Australia.

2. King Cobra

The King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) is the world’s longest venomous snake – growing up to 5.6 m (18.5 ft) in length. Ophiophagus, literally means “snake-eater” as it eats other snakes (similar to the King Snake). One bite can cause the death of a healthy adult human within 15 minutes. This snake is even capable of killing a full-grown Asian Elephant within 3 hours if the larger animal is bitten in a vulnerable area such as the trunk.

It’s venom is not as toxic as other venomous snakes, but King Cobra is capable of injecting more venom than black mamba (up to 600 mg) and can result in one of the fastest mortality rates for any snake bite -typically 30-45 minutes after envenomation. It is quite widespread, ranging across South and South-east Asia, living in dense highland forests.

3. Marbled Cone Snail

This little beautiful looking Cone snail can be as deadly as any other animal on this list. One drop of its venom is powerful enough to kill more than 20 humans. If you ever happen to be in warm salt water environment (where these snails are often found) and see it, don’t even think of picking it up. Of course, the true purpose of its venom is to catch its prey, and not to kill you.

Symptoms of a cone snail sting can start immediately or can be delayed in onset for days. It results in intense pain, swelling, numbness and tingling. Severe cases involve muscle paralysis, vision changes and breathing failure. There is no antivenom. However, only about 30 human deaths have been recorded from cone snail envenomation. The cone snail uses a “harpoon” loaded with venom that it launches with a muscular contraction to inject its prey.

4. Blue-Ringed Octopus

The Blue-Ringed Octopus is very small, only the size of a golf ball, but its venom is powerful enough to kill a human. It carries enough poison to kill 26 adult humans within minutes, and there is no antidote. They are currently recognized as one of the world’s most venomous animals. Its painless bite may seem harmless, but the deadly neurotoxins begin working immediately resulting in muscular weakness, numbness, followed by a cessation and breathing and ultimately death. –They can be found in tide pools in the Pacific Ocean, from Japan to Australia.

5. Death Stalker Scorpion

Most scorpions are relatively harmless to humans as stings produce only local effects (pain, numbness or swelling). However, the Death Starker Scorpion is a highly dangerous species because its venom is a powerful cocktail of neurotoxins which causes an intense and unbearable pain, then fever, followed by coma, convulsions, paralysis and death. Fortunately, while a sting from this scorpion is extremely painful, it would be unlikely to kill a healthy, adult human. Young children, the old, or infirm (with a heart condition) are at the biggest risk. –Death stalker scorpions are spread in North Africa and Middle East.

6. Stonefish

Maybe the Stonefish would never win a beauty contest, but it would definitely win the top prize for being “The World Most Venomous Fish”. The Reef Stonefish is the most venomous fish in the world. Its dorsal area is lined with 13 spines that release venom from two sacs attached to each spine. Its venom causes severe pain with possible shock, paralysis, and tissue death depending on the depth of the penetration. Its venom causes such a severe pain that it is said that the victims of its sting want the affected limb to be amputated. –Stonefish mostly live above the tropic of Capricorn, often found in the shallow tropical marine waters of the Pacific and Indian oceans, ranging from the Red Sea to the Queensland Great Barrier Reef.

7. The Brazilian wandering spider

The Brazilian Wandering Spider (Phoneutria) or banana spider appears in the Guinness Book of World Records 2007 for the most venomous spider and is the spider responsible for most human deaths. This spider is believed to have the most potent neurotoxic venom of any living spider. Only 0.006mg (0.00000021oz) is sufficient to kill a mouse. They are also so dangerous because of their wandering nature. They often hide during daytime in highly populated areas inside houses, clothes, boots, and cars. Its venomous bite causes not only intense pain, the venom of the spider can also cause priapism – uncomfortable erections lasting for many hours that lead to impotence. A bite from this spider can also cause widespread tissue necrosis.

8. Inland Taipan

The prize for “The World’s Most Venomous Snake” goes to the Inland Taipan of Australia. Just a single bite from this snake contains enough venom to kill 100 human adults or an army of 250,000 mice. Its venom is at least 200 – 400 times more toxic than a common cobra. The Inland Taiwan’s extremely neurotoxic venom can kill an adult human in as little as 45 minutes. Fortunately this snake is very shy and there have been no documented human fatalities (all known bites were treated with anti-venom).

9. Poison Dart Frog

The Poison Dart Frog is probably the most poisonous animal on earth.The 2 inch long (5cm) golden poison dart frog has enough venom to kill 10 adult humans or 20,000 mice. Only 2 micrograms of this lethal toxin (the amount that fits on the head of a pin) is capable of killing a human or other large mammal. They are called “dart frogs” because indigenous Amerindians’ use of their toxic secretions to poison the tips of their blow-darts. Poison dart frogs keep their poison in their skins and will sicken or kill anybody who touches or eats it.

10. Puffer Fish

The meat of some species is a delicacy in both Japan (as fugu) and Korea (as bok-uh) but the problem is that the skin and certain organs of many puffer fish are very poisonous to humans.

The puffer fish poison produces a rapid and violent death. Puffer poisoning causes deadening of the tongue and lips, dizziness, vomiting, rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, and muscle paralysis. Victims die from suffocation as diaphragm muscles are paralyzed. Most of the victims die after 4 to 24 hours. There is no known antidote, Most deaths from fugu happen when untrained people catch and prepare the fish.

Statistics show that there were 20 to 44 incidents of fugu poisoning per year between 1996 and 2006 in all of Japan and up to six incidents per year led to death. Since Fugu’s poison can cause near instantaneous death, only licensed chefs are allowed to prepare it.

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