poison profile

Poison Profile

Name: Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum)

Found in: Southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico

The Venom: When Gila monsters attack, venom travels along grooves in their teeth into their victim, immobilizing the animal. In humans, the venom can cause extreme pain, swelling, reduced blood pressure, and internal bleeding.

Poison Plus: Gila monster venom contains exendin-4. Drugs made from this compound have been successfully used to treat type II diabetes since 2005.

Last Bite: The Gila monster flicks its forked tongue to pick up scent particles that can lead the animal to food, including eggs, baby birds, and small mammals. It can even find eggs buried six inches deep! Sharp claws help dig up the meal.

See a live Gila monster in The Power of Poison

Poison Profile

Name: Pacific Yew Tree (Taxus brevifolia)

Found in: Pacific Northwest and northern Rocky Mountains

Toxin: Taxoids

Taxoids protect trees from being eaten by animals. In humans they can cause dizziness, nausea, vomiting, pain, muscle weakness, heart failure, and even death. One taxoid, called paclitaxel, prevents cells from dividing and multiplying. It is made into a drug called Taxol®, whichis used to limit the spread of fast-multiplying cancer cells. It takes more than one ton of yew bark to extract just 10 grams of the cancer-treating medication. In the 1900s several species of the yew tree were threatened from over harvesting; now paclitaxel is made in industrial-scale fermentation tanks.

Poison Plus: Different species of yew trees have traditionally been grown in cemeteries in Europe. In the Harry Potter series, the evil Lord Voldemort’s wand is made of yew.

Learn more in The Power of Poison

Poison Profile                      

Name: Belladona (Atropa Belladonna)

Also Known As: Deadly Nightshade, Death Cherries, or Devil’s Berries

Found in: Grows naturally in central and southern Europe, North Africa, and western Asia. This perennial herb is commonly found in dirt made of limestone or chalk. It grows three to five feet tall in well-watered soil under shaded trees and on wooded hills.

Toxin: Atropine

The toxin blocks the nervous system’s ability to control breathing and heart rate. First the victim experiences dry mouth and blurred vision which progress to hallucinations, convulsions, then anger and delirium until the victim slips into a coma and then death.

Poison Plus: When witches brewed “flying ointment,” belladonna was almost always the key ingredient. Witches rubbed the ointment on different parts of their bodies causing hallucination, so they felt like they were flying even while sitting down. 

Learn more in The Power of Poison.

Aging headcanons

As Party Poison and Kobra Kid age, they become calmer. They still suffer from bouts of anxiety, but a lot of things that frightened them in their 20s don’t bother them anymore. Kobra becomes less high-strung and more patient. He retires from derbies and keeps a low profile. Poison still makes art and custom jackets/ray guns, often working with his brother as they have for years.

When Poison discovers grey streaks in his hair, he initially dyes them, but later makes them part of his outfit. He wears his long hair combed back with grey streaks around his face. Both brothers start wearing more muted clothing. No matter how old they are, they always have a big brother/little brother dynamic. Part of Poison always sees his brother as an excited little kid.

Poison Profile

Name: Monkshood  (Aconitum napellus and Aconitum vulparia)

Also Known As: Wolfsbane, Devil’s Helmet, Blue Rocket, Leopard’s Bane

Found in: Native to western and central Europe, Monkshood grows in woodlands and meadows. It prefers rich, well-drained soils with lots of sun.

Toxin: Aconitine

This powerful toxin disrupts nerve-to-muscle signals, killing a person by heart attack. At first, a victim will suffer from stomach pains and numbness of the tongue and mouth. Larger amounts will cause paralysis and convulsions. If the toxin gets into even a tiny cut, it could mean trouble.  

Poison Plus: Greek herders used one species of Aconitum to protect their livestock, which is how the plant earned its nickname, wolfsbane (meaning “that which causes death to the wolves”). Herders rubbed the plant’s roots and stems onto their arrows and shot at wolves that threatened the herd. The poison quickly killed the attacking wolves.

Learn more in The Power of Poison.

Poison Profile                      

Name: European Mistletoe (Viscum album)

Found in: European mistletoe is a parasitic plant that can be found growing on trees and shrubs throughout Europe and western and southern Asia.

Toxin: Viscumin

This toxin found in the berries of the plant acts similarly to ricin. Symptoms include stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, delirium and slow pulse. Death occurs within a few hours of ingestion.

Poison Plus: European mistletoe has traditionally been used to decorate around the Christmas season. Another species of mistletoe, the American mistletoe, Phoradendron serotinum, grows throughout the United States and Canada. It is known to elevate blood pressure but it is much less toxic than its European counterpart. Native Americans chewed the leaves to relieve toothache; and more recently it has been used as a stimulant in cardiac treatment.

Learn more in the Power of Poison

Poison Profile

Name: Hemlock (Conium maculatum)

Also Known As: Poison Hemlock, Devil’s Bread, Beaver Poison, or Poison Parsley

Found in: Europe, North Africa, and Asia. Hemlock grows near streams and pools of standing water, especially along the borders of pastures and cropland.

Toxin: Coniine

This toxin disrupts messages between the nervous system and the muscles, causing “ascending muscular paralysis.” Within hours after consumption the heartbeat slows, and paralysis begins in the lower legs, moving up to the waist and lungs.  The mind remains alert until death is very near.

Poison Plus: In 339 BC, after being accused of corrupting young Athenians with his radical ideas, the philosopher Socrates was sentenced to the death penalty—a cupful of poison hemlock.

Learn more in The Power of Poison.

Poison Profile

Name: Strychnine tree (Strychnos nux-vomica)

Also Known As: Poison nut, Quaker buttons

Found in: Southeast Asia and India

Toxin: Strychnine

This neurotoxin makes muscles contract – too much can cause seizures, convulsions, and death as your muscles rigidly clench.

Poison Plus: Strychnine is found in certain pesticides. Curare, a plant-based toxin that causes the muscles to relax, can serve as an antidote to strychnine.

Learn more in The Power of Poison.

 

Poison Profile 

Name: Rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum)

Also Known As: Goat-bane, cattle-destroyer, and horse-killer

Found in: The mountains of the eastern Black Sea region of Turkey; other species of rhododendron are found in North America.

Toxin: Grayanotoxin

When gathering nectar from the plant, bees pick up the poison as well, creating poisoned honey known as “mad honey.”  Humans who taste it experience dizziness, confusion, sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea as soon as 20 minutes and up to three hours after ingestion.  Effects last for 24 hours.

Poison Plus:  Grayanotoxin victims experience dangerously fast or slow heartbeat—depending on the dose and the cells affected.

Learn more about poison

Name: Chilean rose tarantula (Grammostola rosea)

Found in: Bolivia, Chile and Argentina

The Venom: The Chilean rose tarantula’s painful bite releases venom that helps deter predators and immobilize and digest prey. In humans, the bite causes pain but no serious damage.

Poison Plus: An extract from tarantula venom called GsMtx-4 appears to help regulate heartbeat. In diseased or damaged hearts, calcium enters heart cells through stretch-activated channels, triggering heart spasms. The extract blocks these channels, causing the heart to beat more steadily. The substance may also help fight pain and muscular dystrophy.

See a live Chilean rose tarantula in The Power of Poison

Poison Profile

Name: Cone Snail (Conus purpurascens)

Found in: Mid-Pacific Region

The Venom: Cone snails may move slowly but their venom acts fast. A barbed “harpoon,” a modified mouthpart known as a radula, is the cone snail’s secret weapon. The harpoon shoots out quickly, delivering a dose of venom to unsuspecting prey. The venom paralyzes the victim by interrupting nerve transmission to the muscles.

Poison Plus: Used medicinally, the cone snail toxins block pain signals from reaching the brain, yielding pain relievers more powerful than morphine. These toxins are also being studied to develop potential medicines for epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease.

Learn more about cone snails in this video.

Image ©  Alex Kerstitch/ ASDM Sonoran Desert Digital Library

Poison Profile:

Name: Botulinum

Produced by:  Clostridium botulinum bacteria

The Toxin: Botulinum is a nerve toxin that causes muscle paralysis. It is one of the deadliest known substances—a millionth of a gram can kill an adult through suffocation—commonly known as a lethal source of food poisoning in improperly sterilized canned foods.

Poison Plus: By carefully paralyzing specific muscles, doctors can stop unwanted muscle spasms, correct crossed eyes, treat uncontrolled jaw clenching, and other disorders; famously, it is used cosmetically (under the commercial name Botox) to reduce wrinkles.

Learn more in The Power of Poison exhibition.

Image credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Image #2107.

Poison Profile: Anemone (Stichodactyla helianthus)

Found in: Caribbean

The Venom: Without the ability to see or swim, anemones rely on their poisonous tentacles to snare prey. Different species contain different types of venoms. The venom in this anemone is currently being studied to treat obesity and multiple sclerosis.

Poison Plus: While most fish avoid anemones, which kill and eat small animals, clownfish have a special adaptation—a thick layer of mucus that protects them from the anemone’s poison. Both organisms benefit from living together. The fish clean off parasites and may chase away the anemone’s enemies; in return, they get protection from predators.

See a live anemone and clownfish in The Power of Poison.