Venomous or Poisonous – Animals, Plants, Mushrooms, and More

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Venomous animals, poisonous plants, mushrooms, and substances produced by microbes, inflict considerable damage to humans and other animals throughout the world.  In scientific lingo, the entire subject is referred to as toxinology and the injurious natural substances as toxins. Thus, toxinology is a subset of the broader discipline of toxicology, and toxins could be considered a sub-category of toxicants, which is the proper word to use more generally for hazardous substances. Venomous organisms use a specialized delivery system such as fangs to deliver their venom.  Venomous animals come in all sizes and shapes and can be found certainly among the snakes, lizards, mammals (e.g. platypus), fish (e.g. stingray), arthropods such as spiders and scorpions, insects such as bees and ants, and more.  The World Health Organization estimates that at least 421,000 envenomings and 20,000 deaths occur worldwide from snakebite each year.  Some animals, such as the fugu fish (or puffer fish), though not venomous, can be poisonous when eaten.  Many plants and plant parts are poisonous to man.  The International Society on Toxinology is a professional group dedicated to advancing knowledge on the properties of toxins and antitoxins.  Interestingly, some toxins are being used as research tools, diagnostic agents, and even therapeutic agents to treat disease, due to their biological potency and specificity.  The profession of clinical toxinologist focuses on the effects of exposure to toxins in animal venoms or plant poisons.

All of the following resources are suitable for general audiences, though some may also hold special appeal for audiences as marked  (Also for Kids or Also Scholarly; Video, $).


Animal Poison Control (From the ASPCA) – ASPCA Pet Tips: 17 Common Poisonous Plants

(  Viewers should note that not all plants are poisonous to pets. VideoAlso about plants hazardous to animals: Includes a link to the ASPCA database of what they consider to be plants that are toxic and non-toxic  to cats, dogs and horses (  Although anything can be toxic if large enough quantities are consumed, this  list contains names and images of plants that have been reported as having systemic harmful effects on animals and/or intense effects on the gastrointestinal tract.


Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System ( – Presents data on plants that cause poisoning in livestock, pets, and humans.

Clinical Toxinology Resources ( – The Women and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide, Australia, is a major global resource covering information on terrestrial vertebrates and invertebrates, poisonous plants, and poisonous mushrooms.

The Evolution of Venom – Who is the Most Poisonous? ( – An Amazing World documentary video, looking at venom and the variety of animals, not just snakes, which are venomous.

International Society on Toxinology ( – This is a professional scientific society of scholars seeking to advance knowledge of toxins and antitoxins. Also Scholarly

The Most Venomous Animals in the World ( – There are a lot of ways to kill and be killed in the animal kingdom, but only a lucky few use the powers of venom. Not all are closely related, so how did they acquire the same defenses, where did venom come from, and how does it work? And what animals can kill you the most quickly? Find the answers to these questions, and more, in this episode of SciShow. Video

Mushroom Poisoning Syndromes ( – The North American Mycological Association’s list of poisonous mushrooms and their effects.

Plants Toxic to Animals Database ( – From the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Veterinary Medicine Library.  Includes description, distribution, conditions of poisoning, control, toxic principle, clinical signs, and references.

The Power of Poison: Inside View ( – From the American Museum of Natural History, a succinct look at the difference between poison and venom. Video

Toxic and Hallucinogenic Animals (Full Documentary) ( High quality, nicely produced video from New Atlantis discussing a broad array of dangerous creatures. Video

Venombyte ( – A Web site devoted to venomous animals of all classes – snakes, spiders, lizards, scorpions, and more – found in the United States.  Includes numerous photos and links to other sites.

Venomous Animals and Poisonous Plants: North America North of Mexico by Steven Foster and Roger Caras (1994) ( – A Peterson Field Guide, this extensive overview of the topic describes each animal or plant and the harm it may cause to humans and other animals.

World’s Deadliest Animals ( – A National Geographic documentary video covering not only venomous animals but others distinguished by their fierceness. Video


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