Don’t Let This Critter Bite You

There’s always something to learn that will surprise you.

Hi, Mr. Nature here–and I was surprised yesterday when I learned that the solenodon–which looks like a kind of rat or possum, but isn’t–is poisonous. A bite from this baby could actually kill you. At the very least, it would make you very sick. This little furry mammal has a neurotoxic venom, as do many poisonous snakes but very few mammals indeed.

What they use the venom for, I dunno. They eat earthworms, insects, carrion, and the occasional frog. Larger mammals eat solenodons. Along with the poisonous bite, I read, goes a rather short fuse–although the one in this video seems amiable enough.

Solenodons are very rare, they live on the islands of Cuba and Hispaniola, and have more than once been thought to be extinct, only to turn up right after their extinction has been published somewhere. They don’t like to be seen and are quite good at avoiding it. Mammals imported from Europe, Asia, and Africa have pretty much wiped out most of the mammal fauna native to the Caribbean.

The Haitian solenodon has a ball-and-socket joint in its snout to make its nose more flexible. That’s helpful in sniffing out yummy worms and grubs. Solenodons don’t see well, but their acute sense of smell compensates for that. And they can run on tiptoe very fast.

You might say these animals are living fossils, left over from their salad days during the Age of Dinosaurs.

There’s no limit to God’s artistry, and we have yet to see it all.

About leeduigon

I have lived in Metuchen, NJ, all my life. I have been married to my wife Patricia since 1977. I am a former newspaper editor and reporter. I was also the owner-operator of my own small business for several years. I wrote various novels and short stories published during 1980s and 1990s. I am a long-time student of judo and Japanese swordsmanship (kenjutsu). I also play chess, basketball, and military and sports simulations. View all posts by leeduigon

14 responses to “Don’t Let This Critter Bite You

  • UnKnowable

    If I ever see one of these, I’ll make it a point to stay away from its teeth. Until this moment, I never knew that there were truly venomous mammals. The proteolytic venoms of many common snakes, most rattlers, cottonmouths, water moccasins for example, are digestive fluids which are toxic, but also function to pre-digest the victim animal from the inside out.

    Neurotoxic venoms are different, they are specifically designed as a way of immobilizing prey. If a coral snake, cobra, or other neurotoxin-bearing creature, including the solenodon, strikes, the venom is part of capturing the prey, likely placing the victim in respiratory arrest. I have no idea why a solenadon needs such a capability, but there is One whom knows, and He reveals much about Himself through His creative works.

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    • leeduigon

      The platypus has poisonous spurs in its back feet, and most shrews have a slightly poisonous bite–slight because they’re so small.

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      • UnKnowable

        I had forgotten about the platypus, but never knew about the shrew. The variety within creation is boundless.

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        • Linda Sorci

          I heard once that daddy long-leg spiders are highly poisonous but their mouths are too small to bite us. I never did try to look that up, mainly because I had forgotten about it until just now 🙂 Meanwhile, this critter looks so much like a possum, I wouldn’t have been afraid of it (although possums do have razor sharp looking teeth!)

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          • leeduigon

            Daddy long-legs are perfectly harmless to human beings.

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          • Linda Sorci

            When I was a young girl, growing up in the country exposed me to many interesting things – including daddy long legs. I always thought they were so unusual and used to let them crawl on my hands and arms. 🙂

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          • leeduigon

            My friend Ellen and I once found about a thousand of them under an old wooden door lying on the ground outside of a haunted house. Those daddy long-legs were all bright red. I’ve never seen their like since.

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          • Linda Sorci

            I hadn’t thought about this one in years, but when I was about 12 we were all roaming around the property and there were some left-over concord grape vines from years past. As I went to reach in to grab some grapes, there was a spider the likes of which I’ve never seen again. It was about as fat and hairy as a tarantula but not quite as big – and it was chartreuse green! Having it brought back to mind, I just did a search and the closest thing I could find was a green hairy crab spider. At this point, I’m sure I’ll never know . . .

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          • UnKnowable

            An interesting looking critter. Never have seen one in person.

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          • leeduigon

            In my Golden Guide to Spiders and Their Kin, I find the Green Lynx Spider, with a body over half an inch long, native to the southern US. These are hunting spiders that chase or bushwhack their prey. I’ll see if I can find a picture of it. It seems to be the biggest green spider you can find in North America.

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          • leeduigon

            Rather pretty, really.
            But the confounded picture won’t post. *sigh*

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  • David Ingram

    I might be able to us a Solenodon to help me get rid of the moles that have infected my yard and the yards of my neighbors. Never had a mole problem until a few years ago, now they are perennial. I’ve tied traps, poison, grub killer – no results My neighbor’s Jack Russel catches one once in a while – boy are they ugly.

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    • leeduigon

      Better watch out with those poisons. We don’t want cats biting into animals that have consumed any kind of poison.
      I thought moles were supposed to be cute and furry, like in “The Wind in the Willows.”

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  • Watchman

    I’m always amazed that there are still “new” (to me) animals that I have never seen before.

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