Name Your Poison

Today I want to talk about one of the burning questions of our time.  (And no, it’s not why we call it “cargo” when it goes by ship and “shipment” when it goes by car.)

December 1994, Sipadan, Borneo — School of Neon Fusiliers — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

What is the difference between poison and venom?

There actually is a difference.  Basically, venom is injected and poison can be inhaled, ingested, or absorbed into the skin ( ).  I became interested in this after listening to an in-depth discussion entitled “Venomous or Poisonous — Can You Spot the Difference?” on today’s NPR Science Friday (available at  A couple of interesting facts from that discussion —

Some animals are both venomous and poisonous.  For example, the pelagic sea snake has both poisonous flesh and a venomous bite.

The duckbilled platypus is a venomous mammal!  So were Phineas and Ferb in mortal danger from Perry the Platypus?  Not quite.  Only the male platypuses (platypai?) are dangerous — they have a venom-delivering spur on their hind legs that’s used to fight off rival males during mating season (  But still, if you ever get the chance, it’s best not to touch; although not fatal to humans, the venom is extremely painful.

So now you know!


Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *