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Toxic Discoveries

Two scientists team up to study deadly animal venom

REPTILES4ALL/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

Vipers are found all over the world. They’re known for their long fangs, which deliver a venomous bite.

Friends can bond over unusual things. For Ronald Jenner and Eivind Undheim, it was centipede venom. The two scientists live half a world apart, yet they teamed up to study venomous creatures.

When people think about venomous animals, snakes and scorpions often come to mind. Yet more than 200,000 species produce it. They include insects, reptiles, mammals, and marine animals.

Friends can bond over unusual things. Ronald Jenner and Eivind Undheim are friends. They bonded over centipede venom. The two scientists live half a world apart. But, they teamed up to study venomous creatures.

When people think about venomous animals, snakes and scorpions often come to mind. Yet more than 200,000 species produce venom. They include insects, reptiles, mammals, and marine animals. 

Most studies have focused on spiders and scorpions. Jenner and Undheim hope their work will shed light on lesser-known venomous species, such as centipedes and marine worms.

Venom is a toxic substance that organisms transmit to victims through a wound from a bite or sting. This makes it different from a poison, which must be touched or swallowed to have an effect.

Most studies have focused on spiders and scorpions. Jenner and Undheim hope their work will shed light on lesser-known venomous species. They include centipedes and marine worms.

Venom is a toxic substance. Organisms deliver it to victims through a wound from a bite or sting. Venom and poison are different. Poison must be touched or swallowed to have an effect.

GEORGE GRALL/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE/GETTY IMAGES

A venomous giant desert centipede can grow to be up to 6 inches long!

Animals make venom to prey on other animals or defend against attack. For example, a honeybee’s sting tells a potential predator to back off. “Quick pain is really effective,” says Jenner.

Venom contains proteins that disrupt a specific function in the target’s body. Some venom prevents muscles from working, causing the victim to become paralyzed. Other venom can kill by affecting blood flow to the heart.

Animals make venom to prey on other animals. They also make it to defend against attack. For example, a honeybee’s sting tells a potential predator to back off. “Quick pain is really effective,” says Jenner.

Venom contains proteins. They disrupt a function in the target’s body. Some venom prevents muscles from working. This causes the victim to become paralyzed. Other venom can kill by affecting blood flow to the heart.

ALEX MUSTARD/NPL/MINDEN PICTURES

Venomous octopus

Jenner and Undheim have been all over the world to study venomous octopuses, vampire bats, and assassin bugs, which prey on bees, flies, and caterpillars.

Jenner and Undheim have been all over the world to study venomous creatures. They include octopuses, vampire bats, and assassin bugs, which prey on bees, flies, and caterpillars.

BRUCE CHEN/EYEEM/GETTY IMAGES

They want to know how venom has evolved, or changed, over time. They focus on centipedes because these arthropods are one of the world’s oldest groups of venomous land animals.

“Science is all about discovery,” says Jenner. “With venom, there’s still so much to discover.”

They want to know how venom has evolved, or changed, over time. They focus on centipedes. That’s because these arthropods are one of the world’s oldest groups of venomous land animals.

“Science is all about discovery,” says Jenner. “With venom, there’s still so much to discover.”

There are about 200 species of venomous sea urchins. What is this number in unit form?

There are about 200 species of venomous sea urchins. What is this number in unit form?

There are 4 times as many venomous cephalopods (octopuses and squid relatives) as venomous sea urchins. What operation helps you find the number of venomous cephalopods?

There are 4 times as many venomous cephalopods (octopuses and squid relatives) as venomous sea urchins. What operation helps you find the number of venomous cephalopods?

Fill in the blanks using unit form. How many venomous cephalopods are there?

4 ones  ×             hundreds  =             hundreds

Fill in the blanks using unit form. How many venomous cephalopods are there?

4 ones  ×             hundreds  =             hundreds

Rewrite this equation in standard form.

Rewrite this equation in standard form.

There are about 3 times as many venomous flea species as venomous cephalopods. How many venomous flea species are there? (Hint: Use your answer from 1D.)

There are about 3 times as many venomous flea species as venomous cephalopods. How many venomous flea species are there? (Hint: Use your answer from 1D.)

Worldwide, there are about 3,000 species of snakes. Of those, about 200 of those species produce venom that causes serious injury, disability, or death to humans. There are 3 times as many vemon-producing snakes in general. Fill in the blanks to find how many venomous snakes species there are.

           hundreds  ×  3 ones =             hundreds

Worldwide, there are about 3,000 species of snakes. Of those, about 200 of those species produce venom that causes serious injury, disability, or death to humans. There are 3 times as many vemon-producing snakes in general. Fill in the blanks to find how many venomous snakes species there are.

           hundreds  ×  3 ones =             hundreds

Write your equation in number form.

Write your equation in number form.

There are about 3,500 venomous centipedes and twice as many venomous snails and slugs. Solve for the number of venomous snails and slugs.

There are about 3,500 venomous centipedes and twice as many venomous snails and slugs. Solve for the number of venomous snails and slugs.

There are 2,000 venomous ray-finned fish and 20 times more venomous spider species. How many venomous spider species are there?

           tens  ×             thousands =                     

There are 2,000 venomous ray-finned fish and 20 times more venomous spider species. How many venomous spider species are there?

           tens  ×             thousands =                      

Write an equation in number form to find the number of venomous spider species.

Write an equation in number form to find the number of venomous spider species.

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