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354

cone snail

OLogy Series
animal
card
354

cone snail

OLogy Series
animal

The oceans are filled with creatures that use poison to survive. Some use chemical defenses to deter predators. Others, like cone snails, use poison to capture prey. Cone snails paralyze their prey with nerve-blocking toxins. Fatal to the cone snail's victims, these same toxins can be used by humans in a variety of medicines --from pain relievers to treatments for epilepsy, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's disease.

There are different kinds of poisons that affect parts of a victim's body. Cone snail toxins affect nerve cells. These toxins are called:

hemotoxins

mytoxins

neurotoxins

Are you right?

Correct!

Hemotoxins attack blood cells and myotoxins destroy muscles. Neurotoxins like the ones in cone snail venom interrupt nerve signals. By interrupting, or blocking, pain signals to the brain, these toxins can actually relieve pain.

Besides cone snails, thousands of other sea creatures, like jellyfish and corals, use toxins to survive. What else do they have in common?

they're all fish

they're all invertebrates

they're all poisonous to eat

Are you right?

Correct!

In other words, they don't have backbones. Many of these marine invertebrate toxins can be powerful medicines.

Cone snails shoot their prey with tiny venom-filled harpoons.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

Cone snails carry tiny hollow "darts" in one sac, and venom in another. To attack, they load these little darts with venom and shoot it out of a mouthpiece called a proboscis.

Cone snail venom is very painful when injected into its prey.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

The venom may paralyze prey, but it's painless. In fact, the venom is so effective at blocking pain signals that it is used by humans as a medicine to relieve pain.

Genus: Conus
Range: Mid-Pacific
Venom delivery: shoots barbed "harpoons" out of a modified mouthpiece called proboscis, or "false tongue"
Diet: mollusks, worms, or fish
Size: variable
Cool Fact: The venom of a single cone snail contains up to 200 different neurotoxins!

Image credits: © AMNH/C.Chesek.