Cone snail drug 100x more potent than morphine

by  AG Staff

A new drug from cone snail venom could offer hope to chronic pain sufferers

AN EXPERIMENTAL DRUG made from cone snail venom has shown early signs of promise in numbing pain, raising hopes in the hunt for new, non-addictive medications, an Australian researcher says.

The drug, which has not been tested yet on humans, is judged to be about 100 times more potent than morphine or gabapentin, which are currently considered the gold standard for chronic nerve pain.

The active ingredient, conotoxin, comes from carnivorous cone snails, which are common in the western Pacific and Indian Ocean…

(via: Australian Geographic)

image: Australian cone snail (Conus textile), with proboscis extended and poised for attack. Image Credit: AAP Image/Melbourne University/David Paul

So let’s juxtapose this with the effects of both global climate change and agricultural pollution on reef systems worldwide.

Just for funsies.

What is your opinion on Western hognose snake venom? If you have one, of course. Many people think they are venomous, but only mildly so. Others believe it is just their saliva. Some even think that humans are completely immune to their venom (if it exists), while others think that we don't react to it because they are so tiny and can't insert their fangs into the human skin.

— Anonymous


The important thing to note here is that no colubrids (sensu pre-Pyron 2013 [1]) possess venom glands, but rather have adapted their Duvernoy’s gland specifically for the production of toxins. So the question is really this: do we call something venomous if the venom is being secreted from a gland that is not a venom gland sensu stricto, but has instead converged to serve a very similar function?

The dentition of Heterodon is strongly opishtoglyphous (as the name, which means ‘different teeth’, would suggest):

Heterodon nasicus - Western Hog-nosed Snake


This dentition indicates to me that there is some injection mechanism at play. As in most opisthoglyphous snakes, the rear fangs are probably grooved, which would allow venom to flow down these grooves and into a wound/prey item.

No research has been done on the secretions of the Duvernoy’s gland (a specialised gland that produces venomous toxins in colubrids) of Heterodon nasicus, although some has been done on the closely related H. platirhinos (the eastern hognose), which showed that the secretions from the Duvernoy’s gland exhibited toxic effects on in-vitro muscle and injected mice [3]. This would suggest that these snakes are venomous, although only weakly so.

As for the effect on humans, I found a single reliable report of human envenomation by H. nasicus [4], which showed that these snakes can have medically significant bites, and given the evidence from H. platirhinos discussed above, it is reasonable to infer that this toxicity is likely produced by the Duvernoy’s gland and not the salivary glands of these snakes. This also addresses the question about whether or not these snakes are able to inject their venom into humans, but it should be noted that, as with most opisthoglyphous snakes, it takes a while for them to do so - the snake must be allowed to bite for an extended period in order for its rear-fangs to pierce human skin. It also shows that we may be sensitive to this venom, but I believe that this reaction was immune rather than venom-driven.

The important thing to remember is that these snakes are not dangerous to people. They rarely bite, and when they do it is unlikely to result in envenomation. Even then, the effects are not prolonged, and the patient described in ref. [4] above had a full recovery in five months.

- Written in consultation with hyacynthus




Studies of the components of the Chilean species, Aristolochia chilensis confirmed the damage attributed to the ingestion of aristolochic acid in plants of the genus Aristolochia, plant and component consumed as “natural medicine” throughout the world.

Aristolochic acids are responsible for causing major damage than caused by smoke nicotine or ultraviolet radiation in relation “to its ability to produce multiple mutations in hundreds or even thousands of genes , many more than any other carcinogen” this qualities led him to become the “greatest genotoxic agent discovered" the danger of the compounds can cause mutations associated with tumors of the urinary tract, kidneys and liver.

The aristolochic acid has been – and continues to be – used for the treatment of eczema, acne, liver symptoms, arthritis, and chronic pain.


Often what you get in “alternative medicine” stores is of poor quality, improperly preserved or labelled, being misrepresented, and not well researched. Most herbal remedies that work are things you could grow or make at home, and which have clearly-defined chemical interactions with your problem.

Here are some examples of herbal remedies with peer-reviewed, published science that confirms their efficacy:

If you have an herbal remedy you want to use, go to a place like PubMed, type in the name of the thing you want to use, and see what sort of research has been published on it. If a health store is claiming it has discovered a new miracle plant that kills cancer in the heart of the Amazon, you can check yourself whether or not that has been established as a possibility. Information is power in a world full of bullshitters trying to sell you something.

Here is a simple wikipedia table on herbal remedies with known adverse effects, which is good basic reading on the subject.

Credit: robertpaulyoung via Flickr |

How The Scorpion Got Its Venom

By Joel N. Shurkin

Hundreds of millions of years ago, when the ancestors of land animals crawled out of the seas and flopped on a primordial beach they learned quickly that to survive they were going to have to develop new tools for catching prey. Venom became one of these tools.

Scientists have found that in most cases all that is required to turn a protein vital for life into a substance that can kill is a mutation in one gene.

A group of scientists have discovered that is true of scorpions. A team led by Shunyi Zhu of the Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that a common protein used as part of the scorpion’s immune system was the origin of the scorpion’s venom.

Read More





Here’s a handy guide to some of the snakes you may run across while gardening and hiking this season.

Signal boost for that time of year, and because there are too many people on tumblr who CANT TELL.

Good read, also a quick aside: just because you have identified a snake as venomous is not a good reason to kill it… venomous snakes are important parts of the ecosystem too.

If you find a venomous snake while hiking or in some area that isn’t urban, just leave it be, it will not bother you! If you find a venomous snake somewhere like your back yard, remove other people and pets from the area and call somebody who can relocate the animal!

There is almost never a valid reason for killing a wild snake, venomous or not!

I’m gonna add some addendum to this because really that tail check is ridiculous please do NOT get that close to a snake you don’t know

The unfortunate part of this list is that nearly every nonvenomous snake out there will try to flatten it’s head to look like a viper to scare you off.



A better test: does it have a triangle head AND is it short and fat (and does it have slit eyes but I don’t expect anyone to get that close)?

Let’s test this:

(harmless, not short and fat. source)

(WE HAVE A WINNER! You can see fat, triangle and cateye. source)

(harmless! fat, but this hognose is clearly not trangley.  source)

(both, both is good. source)

The only reason a venomous snake isn’t gonna meet the ~viper criteria~ is if it’s a coral snake, at which point you just memorize the old rhyme of choice.


(also, disclaimer: this list of tips is for murica only)


Lower esophagus, stomach, and duodenum of poisoning victims

- Top Left: Acute arsenical poisoning. Note the spots where the arsenic ate its way through the tough wall of the stomach.
Top Right: Potassium-cyanide poisoning. Largely hemorrhagic, slimy, contracted stomach.
Second Left: Poisoning with corrosive sublimate. Greyish-green stomach, with lack of bloodflow to local vessels.
- Second Right: Concentrated nitric acid poisoning. Extremely rigid, bright green esophagus, pharynx, stomach, and small intestine.
- Third Left: Acute carbolic acid poisoning.
- Third Right: Subacute carbolic acid poisoning. Note the extreme inflammation as opposed to contracted dead tissue, especially in the esophagus.
- Bottom Left: Dilute sulfuric acid poisoning.
- Bottom Right: Concentrated sulfuric acid poisoning.

Note the appearance of the stomach in the dilute versus concentrated sulfuric acid. The author notes a “firm, cooked” appearance to the concentrated sulfuric acid poisoning, and you can observe the beginnings of that “cooked” appearance in the dilute sulfuric acid poisoning.

Atlas of Legal Medicine. Dr. Eduard von Hofmann, 1898.


Venomous vs. poisonous

There is a difference between organisms that are venomous and those that are poisonous, two commonly confused terms applied to plant and animal life. Venomous, as stated above, refers to animals that deliver (often, inject) venom into their prey when hunting or as a defense mechanism. Poisonous, on the other hand, describes plants or animals that are harmful when consumed or touched. A poison tends to be distributed over a large part of the body of the organism producing it, while venom is typically produced in organs specialized for the purpose. One species of bird, the hooded pitohui, although not venomous, is poisonous, secreting a neurotoxin onto its skin and feathers. The slow loris, a primate, blurs the boundary between poisonous and venomous. From patches on the inside of its elbows it secretes a toxin, which it is believed to smear on its young to prevent them from being eaten; however, it will also lick these patches, giving it a venomous bite


Snakes are not poisonous and frogs are not venomous. Venom is a toxic substance that is injected. Certain species of snakes, scorpions and spiders are venomous, not poisonous. Venom glands typically form the toxic substance and the venom is stored until it is needed. The venomous animal will then bite or sting another creature, whether as intended prey or in defense, and the venom will be injected. Depending on the amount injected, the susceptibility of the animal injected and the size of the animal, various degrees of illness, including death, can occur. 

If you call a snake poisonous, you are actually implying that the snake has a toxic substance on his body and poisoning will occur if the snake is handled. This does not occur. Venom is used primarily to immobilize prey and is rarely used as a defense mechanism. The venomous animal will bite in an attack but injecting venom is usually reserved for prey items.


A poison is a substance that is absorbed through the skin or ingested, resulting in toxicity. Certain amphibians, fish and insects secrete a substance that is poisonous. The poisonous animal does not inject the substance into another creature. The substance is either absorbed through the skin or ingested when the poisonous animal is placed in the mouth or swallowed. Poison is typically used as a defense mechanism and is rarely used to incapacitate prey.

Venom Vs. Poison