AnimDelivery Methods of Toxins as a Defense Mechanism

In the Animal World

Animals both terrestrial and marine have been using biological warfare for centuries as a method of defense. It is my intent to familiarize the reader with the two main delivery methods used widely in the animal kingdom. My research revolves around two terrestrial and three marine species. The main delivery methods are stinging and secretion.

In the marine environment I would like to explain these delivery methods through the use of three different species. The first of these will be the Volitan Lion Fish. This particular species is a part of the scorpion family of fish. As with all marine fish that are part of the phylum Pterois, the delivery methods and appearance of the animals are similar. As you can guess from the earlier information, these Lionfish deliver their toxin through the spiny tips on the dorsal and pectoral fins much like the scorpion and his singular spine at the tip of his tail. Each of the spines of the truly gorgeous fish can deliver a potent toxin, which affects the nervous system of its prospective prey, in the event of hunting for food, or as a defense method when attacked. This species is not very aggressive either in the wild or in a home aquarium though it is territorial in nature. The belief is that the toxin is developed based upon the diet of the fish. Meaning that it does not intentionally develop its own toxin as a part of its genetic structure but rather as an adaptation for its defense. Though specifically what items it feeds on to produce this toxin is not clear, there is precedence indicating this as the source.

Another marine animal, which delivers a toxin for defense purposes, is the Boxfish, also known as the "Neutron Bomb" fish. As its name indicates this animal can wipe out anything in close proximity to it when it becomes frightened. The toxin this fish releases is even toxic to itself. To protect itself from its own toxin this fish releases the toxin as it quickly leaves the area. The delivery method for this fish is excretory through its pores.

The Puffer Fish species includes about 100 different species and is probably the best known of the toxic fish. As with most toxic fish it prefers warm tropical waters and is small in comparison to non-toxic fish species. The puffer is somewhat more difficult to deal with from a human perspective, as there is no antidote available for its toxin. The puffer both excretes, and in some species stings its predators with spines that protrude from its body. The toxin contained in this fish is tetrodoxin, which paralyzes its prey. Neurotoxins seem to be the preferred defense weapon of choice. It has been determined that this toxin is "about a thousand times deadlier than cyanide".

There are an abundance of terrestrial animals that use toxin delivery as a defense method. There seems to be no difference in the preferred delivery methods between aquatic and terrestrial animal species. Once again it is believed that the development of toxin is primarily food related, not genetic. We will look at two species, the Poison Dart Frog and the Queen Alexandriaís Birdwing Butterfly. The Poison Dart Frog does develop its own toxin in glands below the surface of the skin.

The poison Dart frog produces its own toxin. It is believed that the frog develops its own toxin based off of the base source, which it gets from eating a specific species of ant. It is a brightly colored animal, which visible warns other animals not to attack, but this species backs that warning with an extremely potent toxin. This frog develops Batrachotoxin and a lipophilic alkaloid known as pumiliotoxin-C. Not all species of poison frogs contain both toxins however they all contain one or both, making it difficult to treat if a person is affected. The toxin of these frogs cannot be absorbed through the skin, but any breach, even a scratch, will allow the toxin to enter. The Poison Dart Frog excretes its toxin in the form of a slimy film over its back. This film is constantly present as a component of the slime coat needed to keep the amphibian damp. The toxins are believed to be developed through the animalís food source. It is believed that the plants that the insects the frog feeds on is the base source for the development of the toxin. The study of this animal is where the belief comes from that the toxin is derived from a food source. When kept in captivity the frogs lose their ability to produce toxins in a very short time period. The poison of the Phylobates terriblis frog is the deadliest. The poison from the back of one frog can kill eight people.

The Birdwing Butterfly excretes its poison excretes its toxin through the powdery residue on its wings. This is a fine powder designed to keep the wings dry. This animal also develops its toxin from its food source. As a larvae and pupa it is non toxic and only develops its toxin after maturity once it starts feeding off of liquid nectars. This animal is in danger of extinction because of dwindling rain forest.



























Bibliography Volitanís Lion Fish

Box Fish Pufferfish, Blowfish, Fugu, or Globefish

Poison Arrow (Poison Dart) Frogs

Queen Alexandriaís Birdwing Butterfly Poison Dart Frogs, Mantellas, etc. Poison Frogs