Why some animals have venoms so lethal, they cannot use them

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My reverie as I walk through Costa Rica’s beautiful Corcovado National Park is brought to a sudden halt when the guide’s arm slams into my chest. “Stop!” he shouts, pointing at something thrashing around in the sand. “Sea snake.”

As I watch the yellow-bellied sea snake, out of its element and seemingly distressed, a piece of trivia from my childhood surfaces in my brain.

“Sea snakes,” my younger self reminds me, “are the most dangerous snakes of them all. You should be careful.”

True enough, many sea snakes – and land snakes for that matter – are incredibly venomous. A single bite from a taipan snake contains enough venom to kill 250,000 mice, for instance. And it is not just snakes that hold this sort of power. One drop of marbled cone shell venom can kill 20 humans. A box jellyfish sting can cause cardiac arrest and death in a matter of minutes.

This begs the question: why possess a weapon powerful enough to kill dozens if you are only ever going to use it in a one-on-one situation, and specifically if you have no intention of hunting anything the size of a human?

Another piece that had been fermenting in my mind for a while. It was really interesting talking to some of the scientists researching this topic, which is far more complicated than I would ever have imagined! Read the full feature here.

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