Venomous or poisonous?

Toad drool, raven feathers, viper venom … as Halloween approaches, witches and warlocks are hovering over their kettles as they brew up all kinds of potions! However, to obtain their coveted elixir, they must first find out which ingredients are right for their purpose. Would you be able to take on the role of apprentice-witch or warlock and find out how venomous organisms differ from other poisonous ones? Let’s have some fun!

Venomous and poisonous organisms have one thing in common: they both transfer toxic substances (poison) to others. This transfer can be active (a bite or a sting) or passive (by ingestion or simple contact).

In the case of venom, for example snakes and spiders, toxins are actively transferred, therefore, they are called venomous animals. As for mushrooms and actually a majority of plants, they are simply called poisonous organisms because the toxic transfer is passive; we either ingest it or we come in contact with it somehow (skin contact for example).

Often defined as a defence mechanism, venom is first used to immobilize the victim and/or to begin its ingestion; some venomous cocktails can paralyze and even initiate tissue destruction.

Among well-known venomous creatures there is the Australian taipan snake. One dose of its venom can kill over 100,000 mice!

The Black Widow Spider, recognizable by its red hourglass-shape markings on its black abdomen, produces a venom which can cause a person to develop severe headaches, muscle spasms and nausea; however, it’s rarely deadly.

(Image: Australian taipan snake)

So, dear witches and warlocks, on Halloween, to give some bite to your concoctions, will you be tempted by a poisonous amanita (mushroom) or perhaps a little cobra venom?