Within the Animal kingdom, the ability to produce poisonous substances is usually attributed to the bite of insects or the bite of some reptiles, such as snakes, but what about mammals? Are there poisonous mammals ? The answer is yes. Mammals of different groups have developed the secretion of toxic substances that they use to defend themselves from the attack of their predators or to hunt their prey. Probably, the danger posed by the venom of these mammals goes unnoticed among humans.
In this interesting AgroCorrn article you will find information about 16 poisonous mammals , as well as the different toxic substances they use and the defense method or feeding strategy for those who use them.
Alchemy or solenodon: mammals with poisonous saliva
Known for their dangerous poisonous bite, alchems or solenodons are one of the best-known poisonous mammals in Central America. The natural habitat of these small nocturnal mammals includes the islands of Cuba, Haiti, Hispaniola and the Dominican Republic. There are currently two species of this poisonous mammal: the Cuban solenodon (Solenodon cubanus) and the Hispaniola solenodon (Solenodon paradoxus ).
Both species are characterized by the secretion of toxic saliva in their submaxillary glands, located under the jaw. The toxic saliva is accumulated in the incisors of the solenodon, so that when they bite their prey, they directly inject the poison accumulated in their teeth to kill their prey, a predatory attack reminiscent of that of snakes.
Hedgehogs: spiked mammals with poisonous toxins
The famous hedgehogs (genus Erinaceus) are easily recognizable by the presence of pointed spines on their body, which makes them difficult for predators to catch. But, in addition to being pointed and painful, hedgehog quills can be poisonous in some cases. It is one of the survival strategies most used by many species of hedgehogs, which choose to hunt poisonous toads (genus Bufo) and use the poisonous substances that they accumulate in glands, to later smear their long spines with said poison.
Lazy loris: one of the best known poisonous mammals
Did you know that within the group of primates there are also poisonous species? When talking about venous primates , we are talking about the lazy lorises (genus Nycticebus), strange nocturnal mammals that inhabit different countries in Southeast Asia. They are the only poisonous primates that exist in the world, and the group is made up of different species: Bengal loris (Nycticebus bengalensis ), Kayan loris ( Nycticebus kayan), slow loris ( Nycticebus coucang ) and pygmy slow loris (Nycticebus pigmaeus).
The type of venom that characterizes these curious mammals is a polypeptide type toxin which, when mixed with salivary glandular secretions, is used by lorises as a powerful poison. The toxin is synthesized in the brachial gland located at the elbow of primates, so that it is easily spread throughout the body of the animal while it licks to clean and groom its fur.
Used primarily as a defense mechanism, loris venom can cause symptoms such as severe pain, inflammation, and even necrosis, and allergic reactions or anaphylactic shocks. In some extreme cases, the venom of the lorises can lead to the death of the animal that has attacked it.
African maned rat: a mammal with poisonous hair
This strange rodent, native to the African continent, has developed an indirect poisonous ability, since it uses toxic substances produced by a plant for its own defense and benefit.
After chewing roots and pieces of bark of the commonly known as the poison arrow tree ( Acokanthera schimperi ), the African maned rat (Lophiomys imhausi) spits out the resulting mixture , in which there is an abundant toxin , ouabain. Subsequently, it spreads the poisonous mixture on its fur, specifically, in those most exposed parts of its body, so that its thick and long hairs absorb the mixture and incorporate the poison, thus creating an efficient defense mechanism capable of causing diseases or even death to their predators.
Shrews: Smallest Venomous Mammals
The small and harmless shrews to the naked eye are also included within the group of poisonous mammals . Their appearance is similar to that of a mole or mouse and through their hollow teeth, they inject a toxic liquid into their prey.
The best-known poisonous shrew species are the short-tailed shrew ( Blarina brevicauda ), the Mediterranean water shrew ( Neomys anomalus ), the Eurasian water shrew ( Neomys fodiens ), and the Goatherd’s shrew ( Neomys anomalus ).
The reason why these shrews inject poison into their prey is to guarantee their storage, since after receiving the bite of the shrew, the insects or worms on which they feed, are completely paralyzed, so that the shrew it may have fresh prey stored in its burrow for a period of time.
Platypus: the most poisonous mammal
The platypus ( Ornithorhynchus anatino ) is known for many of its strange anatomical features: oversized bill, webbed feet, flattened tail, hair-covered body, as well as being an egg-laying rather than viviparous mammal . But there is one more characteristic that makes them one of the most peculiar mammals of the Animal kingdom : the presence of venom in their spurs .
Exclusively present in male platypuses , the dewclaws on the hind legs of these monotremes contain a powerful venom that causes intense pain in the attacked animal. Typically, the victims of platypus venom are other male platypuses, as a result of fighting for territories or mating.
However, many humans have also been victims of the strong venom of the platypus, suffering excruciating pain that cannot be mitigated with the consumption of morphine or other traditional painkillers. Although the venom of the platypus does not kill the victim, it can be considered the most poisonous mammal in the world .
Learn more about them in this other AgroCorrn article about Monotremes, their characteristics and examples .
Vampire bats: poisonous and flying mammals
Finally, we talk about one of the most well-known mammals considered poisonous : vampire bats (subfamily Desmodontinae). Yes, also in the group of surprising flying mammals some species have developed the strategy of feeding by secreting poisonous substances. These species belong to those commonly known as vampire bats, among which we can find the common vampire bat ( Desmodus rotundus ), hairy-legged bat (Diphylla ecaudata ) and white-winged bat ( Diaemus youngi ).
The venom of these mammals simply consists of the secretion of toxic saliva that they use as an anticoagulant to feed on the blood of their prey, since they are animals with a highly specialized blood-sucking diet.
If you liked meeting these 16 poisonous mammals, we recommend you take a look at this other article on Does the Komodo dragon have poison?
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