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A bigger bite than Dracula!

Posted by on November 5, 2013

Lily Brinn is an intern at the Society of Biology, who has a serious addiction to Marmite. The ocean hosts a wide range of biology, most of which is still to be discovered. In October this year another new species was discovered and this time its venomous.

Ever been stung by a lobster, No? Well watch out because the world’s first venomous crustacean has been found off the coast of Western Australia by a team of scientists led by the Natural History Museum.

Venomous species are common in three of the four main groups of arthropods, including scorpions, centipedes, and wasps. However, the crustaceans which make up the fourth main group of arthropods were the odd ones out until this year, containing no known venomous species.

Speleonectes tanumekes remipede Joris van der Ham

The blind remipede (Speleonectes tulumensis), which looks similar to the one shown here, liquefies its prey with a compound similar to that found in a rattlesnake’s fangs. This dangerous cocktail of toxins contains enzymes and a paralysing agent that disables the creature so that the remipede can suck out the liquefied insides from their victim’s exoskeleton. This is a similar technique adopted by spiders.

The crustaceans have been found in underwater caves of the Caribbean, Canary Islands and Australia. This venomous adaptation has helped in their surroundings, proving to be an advantage in the nutrient-poor caves.  The journal of Molecular Biology and Evolution reports the findings of this venomous crustacean.

Although this is the first venomous crustacean, the sea is full of other venomous and poisonous creatures.  This also gives me the chance to highlight how venoms and poisons are different. The difference between venoms and poisons is in the delivery of the substance. Venom is injected by the animal via stings and bites, compared to a poisonous animal that has stable toxicity and is normally only released when the animal has been attacked or eaten.

The sea has many poisonous creatures including the invasive lion fish with its venomous dorsal spines and the well known puffer fish with very poisonous internal organs containing the toxin tetradotoxin.

Lionfish (Pterois volitans) Brian Gratwicke

After this exciting revelation, the ocean once again proves how much more we have to discover.


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