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The Difference Between Venom and Poison

  |   Wildlife & Flora

Many people use the terms “venomous” and “poisonous” interchangeably- and incorrectly. There is actually a different between the two, and the types of animals and insects they describe. Both species that are poisonous and venomous can be found within the Amazon. Know the difference between venom and poison before your Amazon adventure by taking our quick and easy crash course: 

Brugmansia- Angel Trumpet

Brugmansia- Angel Trumpet


The Difference Between Venomous and Poisonous Animals

Both types of animals produce a toxin that is injurious or lethal to another organism, but the difference lies in how that toxin is delivered. Venomous organisms inject their toxin, whereas poisonous organisms do not deliver the toxins directly. A venomous organism will use some type of apparatus that houses the gland of the venom (for example, fangs or a stinger) to inject the toxin directly into the victim. A poisonous organism is only poisonous when its toxin is inhaled, ingested, or possibly touched. So rather than having an apparatus with a venom inside, all or part of the animal's body is poisonous to other species. 



What is the Difference Between Venom and Poison?

In addition to how the animals deliver each toxin, the toxins themselves are slightly different. Poison will hurt or kill the affected organism however it is received. Venom usually isn’t poisonous, so if it is not injected it will not hurt or kill you. Venom that is poisonous can kill however it is received by the victim. 



Poisonous and Venomous Animals Found in the Amazon

It should come as no surprise that, in the Amazon Rainforest, you can find many exotic species of venomous and poisonous animals.  They are all incredibly fascinating in their own right, and are actually some of the most beautiful animals and insects you’ll see- that’s natures trick to help lure the unsuspecting victims in.

Poison Dart Frog

Poison Dart Frog


Poisonous Flora and Fauna in the Amazon


1. Poisonous Dart Frogs

These bright blue guys are some of the most colorful creatures in the rainforest, but their decorative bodies should be taken as a warning to stay away. They secrete a powerful poison through their skin, and enough of it can cause heart failure within minutes. The golden poison dart frog is the most dangerous, potent enough to kill up to twenty humans!


2. Heliconius Butterflies

This species exists in several varieties in the Amazon, and are poisonous to their avian predators. During their caterpillar stage, they ingest the toxic leaves of poisonous plants, but are able to neutralize the toxins within their own body. 


3. Strychnos Plants

Strychnos is a genus of flowing plants that are infamously poisonous. The plant is found in the Amazon jungle and it is often used in creating poisonous arrows that kill through contact with blood and asphyxiation. The plant itself has a very unpleasant scent, green oval leaves and a red fruit that is the size of an apple. 

4. Curare Plants

The South American Curare vine is native to the Amazon basin. The vine can climb up to 30 meters high and 4 inches thick at its base. The underside of the vine's heart-shaped leaves have a soft and silky texture. The plant is commonly called "Velvet Leaf." Similar to Strychnos plants, the vine is used to create poisonous arrows. 


5. Brugmansia (Angel's Trumpet) 
In the Amazon rainforest, the Brugmansia flower is used by shamans and medicine men to treat various medical issues by applying the plant directly onto the skin. The flowers are produce hallucinations that shamans use to predict disease and other misfortunes. The plant's poison comes from the alkaloids found in the flower, and in large amounts can be deadly to a human.

Bothriechis- Pit Viper

Bothriechis- Pit Viper

Venomous Fauna in the Amazon


1. Pit Vipers

These venomous snakes can grow from 1 to 12 feet long and house a strong venom in their fangs. Some species of pit vipers found in the Amazon rainforest include South American rattlesnakes, the beautiful eyelash vipers, the fer-de-lance (responsible for most of the snakebites in its range), and bushmasters (the longest vipers in the world, growing up to 12 feet long!). 


2. Assassin Bugs

True to their name, these bugs can sneakily kill with ease. They possess an organ protruding from their mouths, which they use to inject a poisonous saliva into their prey, melting their organs from the inside out. These bugs are mainly dangerous to other bugs in the Amazon, including ones much larger than they are, but don’t pose as big of a threat to humans. One subfamily, the kissing bugs, is mainly harmful for the Chagas disease they transmit, killing about 12,500 per year. 


3. Brazilian Wandering Spider

One of the most venomous types of spiders on the planet, these guys wander the rainforest grounds at night in search of food. If you happen to encounter one, their venom can cause intense pain, but is treatable. If left untreated, it will eventually lead to paralysis and trouble breathing.  There are eight species of this spider, all of which can be found in the Amazon.


4. Amazonian Giant Centipede

Sometimes growing up to a foot, this giant centipede is a fierce predator in the Amazon. While they are mainly a threat to animals they might eat, a bit to humans will transmit a non-poisonous venom causing pain, chills, fever and weakness. 


5. Bullet Ant

Over an inch long, these ants can deliver a harsh bite, as well as injecting venom that causes temporary paralysis to the area (though not poisonous or fatal).


Heliconius Butterfly- Sara Longwing

Heliconius Butterfly- Sara Longwing

Now that you know the difference between poison and venom and a few species of venomous and poisonous flora and fauna in the Amazon, you can safely view them from afar on your Amazon tour.  For more information about poisonous and venomous wildlife in the Amazon jungle, or for help booking your Amazon tour, Contact Us

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