What Is the Difference Between Venomous and Poisonous?
by Debbie Hadley, ThoughtCo
The terms “venomous” and “poisonous” are adjectives applied to various animals that are often used interchangeably, but the words have different meanings in biology. Both refer to the presence of toxic substances and their dangers to humans and other creatures. However, venoms are delivered actively and poisons are delivered passively.
A venom is a secretion that an animal produces in a gland for the purpose of injecting into another animal. It is actively introduced into a victim by means of a specialized apparatus. Venomous organisms use a wide variety of tools to inject venom: barbs, beaks, fangs or modified teeth, harpoons, nematocysts (found in jellyfish tentacles), pincers, proboscises, spines, sprays, spurs, and stingers.
- Beard, Raimon L. “Insect Toxins and Venoms.” Annual Review of Entomology 8.1 (1963): 1-18. Print.
- Casewell, Nicholas R., et al. “Complex Cocktails: The Evolutionary Novelty of Venoms.” Trends in Ecology & Evolution 28.4 (2013): 219-29. Print.
- Fry, Bryan G., et al. “The Toxicogenomic Multiverse: Convergent Recruitment of Proteins Into Animal Venoms.” Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics 10.1 (2009): 483-511. Print.
- Harris, J B., and A Goonetilleke. “Animal Poisons and the Nervous System: What the Neurologist Needs to Know.” Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 75.suppl 3 (2004): iii40-iii46. Print.
- Kellaway, C H. “Animal Poisons.” Annual Review of Biochemistry 8.1 (1939): 541-56. Print.
- Wirtz, R.A. “Allergic and Toxic Reactions to Non-Stinging Arthropods.” Annual Review of Entomology29.1 (1984): 47-69. Print.