Go to start page
V1.6.13 T363
Disclaimer & Information
Show Mindmap
Poisonous animals
Cnidarians (Jellyfish, Corals and Anemones)
Venomous fish
Hymenopterans (Bees, Wasps and Ants)
Sea snakes
Terrestrial snakes
Miscellaneous animals

Key to the animal groups

1. Was the accident caused by a POISONOUS or VENOMOUS animal?


ORAL INTOXICATION due to the consumption of poisonous animals or their roe

Poisonous animals have toxins located in their skin, musculature, viscera or body fluids. They do not possess an apparatus with which to inject these toxins, and the toxins can only enter via the gastrointestinal tract following consumption of the poisonous animal. These animals are chiefly marine creatures, in particular fish and shellfish. Microbial food poisoning, e.g. botulism, is not covered in this guide, as this is caused by toxic substances that may develop due to incorrect preservation of food, and is not specific to animal foodstuffs.



PARENTERAL INTOXICATION caused by an external injury (puncture wound, bite, sting or a similar injury) by a venomous animal

Venomous animals, see below under point 2.



2. Accidents caused by VENOMOUS animals

WHERE did the accident occur?

  • In the water or on the water's edge: see below under point 3.
  • On land: see below under point 4.


3. Accidents caused by WATER-DWELLING venomous animals

In the case of accidents caused by animals in FRESHWATER, there are the following possibilities:


  • Painful puncture wounds from fish 

    Diagnosis & Treatment
    Biomedical database
    For more precise identification of the relevant animal, see Table 3.1


  • Painful wounds caused by platypuses (only eastern regions of mainland Australia and Tasmania)
    Biomedical database

N.B. Terrestrial venomous snakes are sometimes found in freshwater. However, only rarely do bites occur in the water.



For accidents occurring in the MARINE ENVIRONMENT (seawater, brackish water and adjacent shore regions), the following two forms of venom application can be distinguished:

  • Venom application to an area of skin caused by animals that have a number of microscopically small venom apparatuses distributed over their body surface or in the tissue. Following contact there are usually visible and painful changes to the affected area of skin, in the form of blotches, welts, abrasions and the like.
    Possible causes are: sponges, cnidarians, sea cucumbers and bristle worms. For more precise identification of the relevant animal, see Table 3.1.

  • Localised/punctate venom application by teeth, spines and the like. The consequent bite or puncture wounds can sometimes be barely noticeable or visible! Possible causes are: sea snakes, cone shells, the blue-ringed octopus, bristle worms, sea urchins, starfish or venomous fish. For more precise identification of the relevant animal, see Table 3.1.


4. Accidents caused by TERRESTRIAL venomous animals

In order to identify the cause of an accident on land, the minimum requirement is that the patient saw the animal in question. If this was not the case, identification is difficult. Considering the large number of different types of venomous animals, bite or puncture marks are not sufficiently specific as a basis on which to make a satisfactory classification. However, some venomous animals can be excluded on the basis of geographical or clinical criteria or the circumstances of envenoming.

A rough description of the animal by the patient should be sufficient to distinguish between the two main animal categories in which medically relevant venomous animals occur.



They possess a more or less hard-shelled external skeleton of chitin, 3 or more pairs of legs and a segmented body with or without wings.

Venomous members of this group are scorpions, spiders, centipedes and some insects and ticks.

For more precise identification of the relevant animal, see Table 3.2 and Table 3.3.



As vertebrates they do have a spine. The skin is covered with horny scales.

Possible causes are:


  • Heloderma spp. (Beaded lizard and Gila monster). Sturdy body, 2 pairs of legs. Only occur in the southwest of the USA, in western Mexico and in Central America.