Most Venomous Mammals in the World List
Some of the most venomous mammals in the world include the platypus, skunk, slow loris and the Cuban solenodon, animals we may think of as being more cute than deadly. We often associate the ability to produce venom with animals such as snakes, scorpions and spiders. Predatory mammals tend to have other features which allow them to capture prey. These include sharp claws, powerful jaws and agility. Although it is relative rare, there are mammals with venom. This is a trait which zoologists have only recently acknowledged in many of these species.
At AnimalWised, we explain what these animals are with our 16 most venomous mammals list. We provide some information about how each mammal uses its venom, as well as provide photos to see what to avoid if you come across one in the wild.
- Are there venomous mammals?
- Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus)
- Sunda slow loris (Nycticebus coucang)
- Pygmy slow loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus)
- Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis)
- Cuban solenodon (Solenodon cubanus)
- Northern short-tailed shrew (Blarina brevicauda)
- Iberian water shrew (Neomys anomalus)
- Eurasian water shrew (Neomys fodiens)
- Common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus)
- Maned rat (Lophiomys imhausi)
- Other poisonous mammals
Are there venomous mammals?
Our list would be rather short if they did not exist, but there are venomous mammals in nature. We most associate ferocity with large predatory mammals. We don't expect a tiger or a wolf to have venom glands and there is good reason for this. They do not needs poisons, toxins or venom. These mammals attack their prey easily and can kill using their claws, teeth, jaws or other appendages.
Venomous mammals tend to be much smaller creatures which do not have such predatory abilities. Since they cannot attack very easily, they have to use evasion to survive. They can do this by jumping, running or burrowing, but a small number of them can also use venom to protect themselves.
As you will see in our 16 venomous mammals list, many of these mammals have incredible adaptations which allow them to thrive in the wild. None of them are particularly deadly and no mammals appear on our list of the most venomous animals in the world. However, their ability to produce venom can be the difference between life and death.
1. Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus)
Sometimes known as the duck-billed platypus, the platypus is one of the most fascinating animals on the planet. When they were first discovered by British scientists, they took a specimen back to England where many people thought it was a hoax. They couldn't believe it was a real animal. As an egg-laying mammal with a duck bill and a flat leathery tail, it is easy to understand why they thought this way.
We know they are a type of venomous mammal thanks to venom glands attached to spurs behind the webbed feet of their hind legs. Used more for self-defense than predation, the spurs inject a venom which can be very painful, but which is not lethal to humans. This toxin is made of proteins and they create more of it during the breeding season than any other time of the year.
Learn more with our article on whether platypus venom is deadly.
2. Sunda slow loris (Nycticebus coucang)
Also called the greater slow loris, this is a mammal of the order primates. This means they are closer to humans than at first glance. Native to Asia, specifically Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, they are classified as Endangered. It is a small mammal which usually weighs around 1.5 lb, but their venom has a toxin from a gland on the inside of their elbow.
Slow lorises have a very interesting way of envenomating. They don't have a fang or a spur, but they lick their gland to secrete the toxin. They then cover themselves in their toxin-mixed saliva. When a predator attacks, they roll into a ball and the toxin is spread. They also lick their young to also protect them from predators. It is for this reason slow loris are not used as bush meat, since ingesting them can be poisonous.
3. Pygmy slow loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus)
A related small primate, the pygmy slow loris is also classified as Endangered and native to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. It usually weighs less than 1 lb and is only about 6-10" in length. As with the Sunda slow loris, this venomous mammal licks the toxin from their elbow gland. Although it is rare for a slow loris to use this on a human, there has been at least one case of a person going in to anaphylactic shock after coming in contact with a slow loris.
In the photos you cannot see the gland, but you can see the elbow where the gland is located. It is easily within reach of their mouth.
4. Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis)
The striped skunk is native to Canada and the United States and its conservation status is of least concern. This example of a poisonous mammal is distinguished by their black color with a white stripe that runs along the entire upper center of the body. Their defense consists of the production of a musk in their anal gland. When they expel this musk, it can reach up to about 2 meters away.
Not only does a skunk's musk smell, but if it comes in contact with a person or an animal's eyes, it can cause temporary blindness. Skunks use this ability to project this musky toxin to warn off predators or to disable them if attacked.
5. Cuban solenodon (Solenodon cubanus)
Next on our venomous mammals list is an animal which is similar to a rodent, but is actually in the order Eulipotyphla. They have a long snout and legs with well-differentiated toes and long claws, as you can see in the photo below. It is classified in the Endangered category and is part of the fauna of Cuba.
Solenodons are small animals which have submandibular glands that produce venom. This can be be excreted between the teeth. It is capable of killing its prey and even other members of the same species.
6. Northern short-tailed shrew (Blarina brevicauda)
Shrews have a reputation as being timid animal, which is why it may surprise you they are actually types of venomous mammals. They are tiny and only measure up to around 4" in length and weigh less than 30g on average. They have a coat which is uniformly gray in color, but soft to the touch.
Glands in the submaxilla (lower jawbone) produce a toxic substance that the shrew can inoculate when they bite. With this venom, they are capable of killing larger prey such as salamanders, birds, frogs and even snakes. In humans, this substance can cause severe pain for days, but they only bite a human in self-defense.
7. Iberian water shrew (Neomys anomalus)
Another species of venomous shrew, the Iberian water shrew is found in Europe and Asia, particularly Spain and Portugal from which their name derives. As you can see in the photo below, they are darker than the northern short-tailed shrew, but they are also even smaller at about half their size. They have glands which produce a narcotic-type neurotoxin which lulls their invertebrate prey. This toxin is weak and has no effect on humans.
8. Eurasian water shrew (Neomys fodiens)
Our next venomous mammal is also a a species of water shrew which is widespread in European and Asian countries. Its upper coat is dark in color, but ventrally it is light. Due to its semi-aquatic habits, its body has a series of adaptations that allow it to function skillfully in the water. This includes trapping bubbles of water in its fur to aid buoyancy. Like the previous species, its saliva is mixed with a narcotic toxin.
9. Common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus)
Moving on from venomous shrew, we find a species of bat that ranges from Mexico to Argentina. The common vampire bat is grayish-brown in color with a lighter belly, weighing around 15 to 50 grams. Although this type of flying mammal does not really produce venom, its diet is specialized in the consumption of vertebrate blood. While they usually feed on horses and cattle, they can also predate on snakes, lizards, toads and crocodiles. They are even known to feed on humans.
For feeding, they uses razor-adapted teeth to break the victim's skin and drain the blood. Since its saliva contains an anticoagulant compound, the blood will continue to flow as long as the vampire bat is sucking on it. It is this compound which acts in a similar way to venom as it means the animal on which
If you find yourself the victim of this venomous mammal, find out what to do if you are bitten by a bat.
Maned rat (Lophiomys imhausi)
Also known as the African crested rat, this rodent is native to Africa, specifically countries such as Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and others. As you can see in the photo below, they have bony projections in the skull from which their name derives. These venomous mammals have glands that produce a bad odor. For a long time it was thought they produced a poisonous substance, because dogs had been reported convulsing after eating them.
It is now known that maned rats are not actually truly venomous. Instead, they use a toxic plant form their habitat which they crush and then smear over their body. Similar to how lorises protect themselves with their own venom, maned rats can defend against zealous predators.
Other poisonous mammals
In addition to the above poisonous mammals, we share some of the rest:
- Bengal slow loris (Nycticebus bengalensis)
- Red slender loris (Loris tardigradus)
- Hispaniolan solenodon (Solenodon paradoxus)
- Hairy-legged vampire bat (Diphylla ecaudata)
- Cabrera shrew (Neomys anomalus)
- White-winged vampire bat (Diaemus youngi)
If you want to read similar articles to Most Venomous Mammals in the World List, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.
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