Most poisonous creature on Earth

Starrer Doug suggested that the most poisonous creature on Earth is the taipan snake.

However I remember reading in Readers Digest some time back that the most poisonous creature is a marine creature, the Box Jellyfish or Chironex fleckeri.

Could it be that the taipan is the most deadly terrestrial creature and the Box Jellyfish the most deadly marine creature?

Worth a question, I suppose.

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What’s the most poisonous creature on earth? (12-Sep-2000)

The question is most poisonous, drop for drop of poison, not most deadly as a whole animal. Jellyfish toxin works in an entirely different manner from snake or arthropod venom (surface contact rather than injected). That being said, I don’t think the jellyfish toxin would come close to snake venom in acute toxicity - the reason many of those jellyfish victims die is drowning. I think if you were to be subjected to jellyfish toxin versus taipan venom while resting in a lab, you’d be considerably more likely to die from the latter.

I somehow missed this staff report the first time around. An earlier thread on the same subject is Stone fish aren’t the most poisonous? In that thread, Tomcat provided an interesting link, World’s most dangerous snakes, LD[sub]50[/sub] . As you can see by looking at the data, the LD[sub]50[/sub] varies widely depending on the way the toxin is administered (subcutaneous, intravenous, etc.)

The Guinness Book of Records (admittedly not the final word on zootoxins, but perhaps slightly more authoritative than the Readers’ Digest) says the most potent natural toxin is that of the golden poison-dart frog Phyllobates terribilis of Colombia.

Of course having very deadly toxin isn’t necessarily the same as being very dangerous to people. Few (if any) people have been killed by the very poisonous taipan, but very many people have been killed by the much less poisonous saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus) and puff adder (Bitis arietans). It’s a matter of how likely they are to bite people, and how much venom they can inject.

Early in the 1950s there were apparently several deaths from taipan bites. An antivenin became available in 1955, and I couldn’t find evidence of any deaths since then. See

Jellyfish venom doesn’t work through skin contact, but rather is injected through the skin via thousands of tiny harpoons. Victims do commonly die from drowning, but even more commonly the cause of death from box jellyfish stings was heart failure prior to anti-venom being available. Without anti-venom the chances of dieing are actually fairly good, with about 55 deaths in the last 15 years

The name fierce snake is one of the accepted common names for the inland Taipan according to Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, along with small scaled snake and western taipan and wasn’t made up by the folks producing the TV show

Of course this is all irrelevant because when it comes right down to it the most poisonous creature, as opposed to animal, on Earth is the bacterium responsible for botulism if you want to use LD50 as your guage for most poisonous. Clostridium botulinum toxin has an LD50 of 0.001 mg/kg if swallowed and 0.00001 mg/kg if injected subcutaneously. That makes it by far the most potent venom of any creature on Earth and kind of makes spiders, snakes, frogs and jellyfish look a little lame.

I just read in another thread that we should include a link to the original Straight Dope topic that we are writing about here on the message board.

And I didn’t do that with the topic I have raised - the most poisonous creature on Earth.

So here is the link

and my apologies.

Margaret Thatcher.

Gaspode wrote:

“Jellyfish venom doesn’t work through skin contact, but rather is injected through the skin via thousands of tiny harpoons”

I fail to see any functional difference between something that is injected about 0.1 mm into the skin and something simply contacting the skin. Nematocysts are not just tiny, they’re microscopic, and their penetration is pretty negligible - if that weren’t so, then wearing panty hose wouldn’t be the effective protection against stings that it is.

Again, this is irrelevant; the original question was about venoms, not toxins.

Doug, there’s a huge difference between being even superficially injected and skin contact. Basically it comes down to the fact that if jellyfish toxin in the quantities found in even a large box jelly were poured onto unbroken, uninflamed skin it would probably fail have any effect at all. If it is injected even a tenth of a millimetre it kills you. Big functional difference that has to do with access, and particulalrly speed of access, to the blood/lymphatic system. The LD50 for virtually any poison is an order of magnitude greater for oral/subcutaneous exposure than it is for dermal contact for this reason.

The original question was about neither venoms nor toxins specifically. It concerned: a)“the most poisonous substance known to mankind” and b)“the most poisonous creature on earth”. C. botulinum wins b)by some definitions, and it’s toxin wins a) at least with respect to ‘natural’ poisons.

Frankly, I’d have to say that, all things considered, people are the most poisonous creatures on Earth.