Venomous snakes, lizards, spiders and other insects are something most people know about and understand. Avoiding certain types of these animals makes sense for safety's sake, but being careful with some mammals may seem strange. Not everyone knows that a few of the world's small mammals produce and use venom to catch and kill their prey.
Northern Short-tailed Shrew
The northern short-tailed shrew is one of a few shrew species that produces venom. They grow to about 5 inches in length from nose to tail and weigh around an ounce. Often gray in color with short legs and a pointed snout, they appear commonly in America's eastern and central states. They are ferocious hunters, using a paralyzing venom to subdue larger prey such as amphibians, small birds and other shrew species. The venom is produced in the mouth, but unlike snakes who can inject in one bite, the shrew has to chew the toxin into the prey.
The Haitian solenodon is a shrew-like animal but is much larger, reaching lengths of 13 inches and weighing upwards of 2 lbs. With a rat-like body and a shrew-like pointed snout, they look unusual and live mainly in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Feeding mainly on insects, the species uses a paralyzing toxin produced in its saliva to subdue its prey with a single bite. It is not considered harmful to humans and is in fact a rare animal listed as endangered.
The platypus is an animal so strange that when it was first discovered some scientists were sure it was a hoax. Described as a cross between a duck, a beaver and an otter, the animal is native to eastern Australia. About 15 inches long and weighing up to 3 lbs., it has a duck-billed mouth with webbed feet and a furry, elongated body. It is also one of only two mammals that lays eggs. Not used for hunting, the venom is produced in males at the base of spurs on their back legs. It is used as a defense, delivering a painful sting to predators.
The loris is the only venomous primate and comes in several types including gray, red and pygmy. With long, slender limbs they move slowly through the branches of trees and have large, round eyes and a flat face. They have a slow metabolism which allows them to digest things unpalatable to other animals, such as tree gum. They mainly eat insects which they grab quickly from the air. A venom is produced on the elbows of the loris' arms which it can take into its mouth to be used as a defense against predators. The loris will try to bite attackers with this painful toxin.
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