Helen Scales

rembrant cone shell

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.






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