are animals of the class Mammalia
that produce venom
, which they use to kill or disable prey, or to defend themselves from predators. In modern nature, venomous mammals are quite rare. Venom is much more common among other vertebrates
; there are many more species
of venomous/poisonous reptiles
), and fish (e.g. stonefish
). There are no species of venomous bird; however some birds are poisonous to eat or touch, such as the pitohui
, the ifrita
, and the Rufous or Little Shrike-thrush
. There are only a few species of venomous amphibian - certain salamandrid
salamanders can extrude venom-tipped sharp ribs
There are suggestions that venomous mammals were once more common. Canine teeth dated at 60 million years old from two extinct species, the shrew-like Bisonalveus browni and
another unidentified mammal, show grooves that some palaeontologists have argued are indicative of a venomous bite. However, other scientists have questioned this conclusion given that many living nonvenomous mammals (e.g., many primates, coatis and fruit bats) also have deep grooves down the length of their canines, suggesting that this feature does not always reflect an adaptation to venom delivery.
To explain the rarity of venom delivery in Mammalia, Mark Dufton of the University of Strathclyde has suggested that modern animals do not need venom because they are smart and effective enough to kill quickly with tooth or claw; whereas venom, no matter how sophisticated, takes time to disable prey.
Listed below are mammals that are venomous or that use poisonous or noxious chemicals in some form.
Venomous Cuban Solenodon
) & Haitian Solenodon
look similar to big hedgehogs
with no coat of spines. They both have venomous bites; the venom is delivered from modified salivary glands
via grooves in their second lower incisors
): Males have a venomous spur on their hind legs. Echidnas
, the other monotremes
, have spurs but no functional venom glands.Eurasian water shrew
): Capable of delivering a venomous bite.Northern Short-tailed Shrew
): Capable of delivering a venomous bite.Southern Short-tailed Shrew
) & Elliot's Short-tailed Shrew
): Possibly have a venomous bite.
, Nycticebus bengalensis
, Nycticebus pygmaeus
): Glands on the inside of their elbows secrete a toxin that smells reminiscent of sweaty socks. They cover their babies in the toxin to protect them from predators, and put it in their mouths to give themselves a venomous bite, delivering the toxin via their lower incisors
can eject a noxious fluid from glands near their anus
. It is not only foul smelling, but can cause skin irritation and, if it gets in the eyes, temporary blindness. Some members of the mustelid
family, such as the striped polecat
), also have this capacity to an extent. Pangolins
can also emit a noxious smelling fluid from glands near the anus. The Great Long-nosed Armadillo
can also release a disagreeable musky odor when threatened.
- Folinsbee K, Muller J, Reisz RR (2007). "Canine grooves: morphology, function, and relevance to venom" Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 27:547-551.
- Fox RC, Scott CS (2005). "First evidence of a venom delivery apparatus in extinct mammals". Nature 435 (7045): 1091–3. PMID 15973406
- Orr CM, Delezene LK, Scott JE, Tocheri MW, Schwartz GT (2007). "The comparative method and the inference of venom delivery systems in fossil mammals" Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 27:541-546.