Painless killers: cone shells

Look but don’t touch.

It’s a useful piece of advice for anyone exploring the seas, especially in the tropics where there’s a good chance you’ll encounter some of the deadliest animals on the planet.

Cone snails produce amazingly complex venom. They load it into hollow teeth, like little harpoons, which they spit out at their prey. Some are powerful enough to kill an adult human. But scientists are discovering untold wonders in these toxins and unlocking a whole new realm of research and drug development.

For Chemistry World’s Chemistry in its Element podcast, I dive into the toxic but fascinating world of cone shells. I also write about cone snails in my book Spirals in Time.





1 Comment

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September 11, 2018 at 11:11 am

In your lovely book “Eye of the Shoal” you state – p. 262- that Pacific and Atlantic herrings are “..the only animals known to communicate with flatulence.” I’m sure this is not true. Ask any one of millions (mainly little girls and their mums) who own and ride ponies, horses and donkeys and they will confirm that these creatures regularly fart insults at their owners. You like experiments Helen so try this. Go into a field housing a truculent donkey (get the owner’s permission first of course) and attempt to force the animal to do something it doesn’t want to do. You will be rewarded with a huge buck and whilst still airborne a sonic boom which can be translated as “Up yours.” Go on, I dare you.
Very best wishes and, as they almost say on “Strictly…”Keeep writing”, David

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