5 Mammals That Are Adorable … and Toxic


There's more to skunk spray than its awful smell. Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Thinkstock
There's more to skunk spray than its awful smell. Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Thinkstock

There's nothing cuter than a little mammal, right? The biological class that brings us piglets, kittens and human babies certainly deserves credit for having the most benignly adorable species. Sure, mammals can go at it with teeth and claws, but at least they can't paralyze you with their deadly tentacles or kill you with one venomous bite. Right?

Well, there are some mammals that aren't as fuzzy and warm as they appear. Let's take a look (from a decent distance) at mammals that use venom or toxic weapons to defend themselves.

1. Skunks

Before we get into deadly force, let's visit our friendly neighborhood skunk, which can blast a spray of thiols (compounds also found in onions and garlic) so potent that it causes temporary blindness, inflammation and vomiting. Skunk spray can even be toxic to other animals, including humans.

2. Platypuses

The platypus is already weird enough for its egg-laying ability. But to add to that, the males also have spurs on their hind legs that release crazy powerful venom causing nearly unbearable pain.

Male platypuses use this spur to inject venom into unsuspecting victims.
Male platypuses use this spur to inject venom into unsuspecting victims.
Auscape/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

3. Slow Lorises

While some mammals have their venom at the ready, slow lorises use their hands to rub glands near their armpits that contain the toxic stuff, then they apply the substance to their teeth to put a predator into serious shock.

Don't let those adorably enormous eyes fool you: Slow lorises have a venomous trick up their sleeve -- or armpit, as it were.
Don't let those adorably enormous eyes fool you: Slow lorises have a venomous trick up their sleeve -- or armpit, as it were.
lnzyx/iStock/Thinkstock

4. Shrews

Several species of shrew have salivary glands that produce venom to paralyze their prospective meal. But they aren't just injecting their foil with the venom: The shrew needs to chew its prey to get the venom to do its job.

Water shrews are one of the few species of shrew that are venomous.
Water shrews are one of the few species of shrew that are venomous.
Oxford Scientific/Photodisc/Getty Images

5. Solenodons

The solenodon is a shrewlike mammal native to Cuba and Hispaniola. But unlike the shrew, this toxic mammal absolutely uses its grooved, sharp teeth to inject venom directly into a foe.

Solenodons may be small, but they carry a mighty venom capable of taking down prey.
Solenodons may be small, but they carry a mighty venom capable of taking down prey.
© 2010 Solenodon joe/CC BY 3.0