Venom and poison are two types of toxins that differ in the way they get delivered to the body. Venom gets injected directly into the body via a bite or sting. Poison is consumed, inhaled, or absorbed through skin. Organisms that deliver venom are venomous, while those that produce poison are poisonous.
Summary of the Difference Between Venom and Poison
- Venom, poison, are toxin are three related terms that don’t mean exactly the same thing.
- Both venom and poison contain toxins, which are chemicals that cause harm to living organisms.
- Venom is actively delivered into the body, while poison is passively delivered.
- Bees, jellyfish, and some snakes are venomous. Certain mushrooms, berries, and the skin of some frogs are poisonous.
Venom is a toxin actively delivered by a sting or bite. Most venomous organisms are animals, such as snakes, wasps, jellyfish, or spiders. However, a stinging nettle is an example of a venomous plant. Venom is a mixture of different organic compounds. Because venom it is metabolically costly for an animal to make venom, many venomous creatures control envenomation (venom delivery). For example, a venomous snake can deliver a “dry” bite containing little to no venom.
Here are examples of venomous creatures:
- Coral snake
- Black widow spider
- Bullet ant
- Honey bee
- Stinging nettle
- Gila monster
For the most part, venom is active when injected, but is not necessarily toxic if ingested. This is because digestive enzymes break down the harmful proteins.
While venomous species actively deliver toxins, poisonous organisms are more passive-aggressive. You have to touch, eat, drink, or breathe a poison. Poisons also include inorganic chemicals, such as arsenic and cyanide. Poisonous organisms include many plants and fungi. Some animals are poisonous, too.
Here are examples of poisonous creatures:
- Poison dart frog (poison secreted on skin)
- Cane toad
- Poison ivy
- Castor bean
- Amanita mushroom
- Garter snake (not venomous, but has toxic meat from amphibians it eats)
Both Venomous and Poisonous
A few creatures are both venomous and poisonous. That is, they sting or bite you, but are also toxic if you eat them.
- Asian tiger snake (both venomous from its bite and also poisonous because it eats poisonous toads)
- Blue-ringed octopus (venomous bite and poisonous if eaten)
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