If you are dying because some unknown organism latched on to your foot and injected you with some horrible mix of chemicals your primary concern is probably not going to be, “was that thing venomous or poisonous?” And honestly, when you call for emergency medical assistance, they probably aren't going to nitpick your word choice if you tell them, "I was just bitten by a poisonous snake!" However, personally, I don’t want my last statement to be a scientifically inaccurate one. And I am guessing that, since you are here, you likely don’t want that either. So let’s take a moment to distinguish venomous creatures from poisonous ones. That way, if your final words are going to be something like, “I was attacked by a venomous horror!” you can rest soundly knowing that your final words were backed by sound science.

The quick and dirty way to separate venomous creatures from poisonous ones is by thinking about bites: If you bite it and die, it is poisonous; if it bites you and you die, it is venomous. Watch a more detailed explanation in this TED-Ed Original by Rose Eveleth

WATCH: Venomous or Poisonous, Which is Which?

READ NEXT: Poison, Venom, and Toxins--What Are They?


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