The majority of venomous creatures are reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates, however there are also a handful of venomous mammal species, one of which is found on Tamborine Mountain.
Bites and scratches from many mammal species (including humans) may transmit disease, produce infection and allergies, but this is not caused by venom, rather it is due to the presence of bacteria, viruses and allergens in nails/claws, mouth and teeth. Venomous mammals have glands that produce toxins, and modified teeth or claws that can puncture the skin of the victim to deliver the toxin. Venom is used primarily to subdue and kill prey and for self-defence.
Venomous mammals have three lineages:
1) Insectivores (an order of mammals including solenodons, hedgehogs, moles and shrews)
Solenodons – there are two species which are found only in Cuba and Hispaniola. They are solitary, secretive, nocturnal animals that are now critically endangered due to habitat loss and introduced predators. Solenodons have a long, highly sensitive snout that can probe into crevices. Once prey is detected, it is bitten; the modified salivary glands produce paralysing venom that is delivered to the bite site via grooved teeth.
Shrews – have wide geographic distribution, they are very small (the world’s smallest mammal is a species of shrew that weighs only 2 grams). Shrews are solitary, secretive animals characterised by velvety fur, long pointed snouts and hectic activity as a result of extremely high metabolic rates. There are approximately 250 shrew species, four of which have modified salivary glands that produce paralysing venom, which is delivered to the bite site via grooved teeth.
2) Slow Loris - are ancient nocturnal, arboreal, primates found in the forests of Asia.
They move slowly through the treetops and their wide fixed eyes provide excellent night vision. A brachial gland on their forearm secretes a strong smelling toxic liquid; the toxin is licked into the mouth and delivered to the bite site by specialised small forward sloping teeth. The mother combs this liquid over her baby for protection. Sadly all three species of slow loris are threatened on three fronts. Their habitat is being lost through logging and the scourge of palm oil plantations. They are extensively poached for the pet trade and hunted to satisfy the increasing demands of the superstitious quackery of traditional medicine - the body parts of the slow loris are supposed to empower by warding off evil spirits and to cure epilepsy and other ailments.
3) Platypus - female platypus possess rudimentary ankle spurs but only the male platypus develops curved, hollow rear ankle spurs (up to 15 mm long).
Each spur is connected by a duct to a venom gland under the thigh muscles. Envenomation produces pain but is not dangerous to humans. The peaking of venom production during breeding season indicates that the primary purpose of the venom system may be as a weapon for males competing for mates and territory.