Neurotoxins in Nature
Nature is rich with variation. The different life forms that have evolved over time show the vast differentiation that can occur during natural selection. This does not mean however, that similar mechanisms cannot evolve separate from each other in different species. One such mechanism is the use of neurotoxins as a means of defense or predation. Organisms throughout the animal kingdom have evolved the ability to paralyze, incapacitate, and quickly kill predators and prey alike through neurotoxins. From pufferfish (Takifugu snyderi) swimming in the ocean to the hooded pitohui (Pitohui dichrous) flying through the air and many more amphibians, reptiles, and arthropods roaming the land and waters, neurotoxins are everywhere in nature. While these dangerous chemicals may exist in numerous organisms, the origins of each compound still elude scientists. Some organisms obtain their neurotoxin through diet (some birds, Bartram and Boland 2001) and others may create it from within (some newts, Mebs et al. 2010).
Notophthalmus viridescens. Image by Patrick Coin and released under the CC BY-SA 2.5.
Follow the links below to explore the abundance of neurotoxins in nature!
Indian Spectacled Cobra. Image by Kamalnv and released under the CC BY 3.0.