'Taxonomy of Toxins' Glossary

Poisons are substances that damage or disrupt another organism’s biological functions.  

Toxicants are poisons that do not have biological origins.  Generally, this term is used to describe human-made toxic substances.  

Toxins are poisons generated by a living organism. Different types of toxins inhibit different types of biological functions.  For example, neurotoxins affect the nervous system, causing paralysis or extreme pain, cardiotoxins that disrupt heart functions, and hemotoxins destroy red blood cells.  Often used synonymously with “biotoxin” to clarify the organic origin.     

Poisonous organisms produce toxins that are absorbed, inhaled, or ingested.  These lifeforms generally use their poisons passively in self-defense.

Venomous organisms produce and deliver toxins to another organism for the purpose of predation or self-defense. Venoms are injected through spines, fangs, or other specialized envenomation apparatus.

Taxonomy is the study or practice of systematically classifying things, especially organisms.

Predation is the act of one organism killing and eating another.

Predators are organisms that hunt other organisms for food. The organisms that are eaten are called prey.

Apex predators (also referred to as alpha predators or apical predators) are organisms that sit at the top of their food chain and have no natural predators within their ecosystem.

Aposematism is the use of a signal--especially a visual signal of conspicuous markings or bright colors--by an animal to warn predators that it is toxic or distasteful. (derived from Merriam Webber)

Hemotoxins are toxins that affect the blood or blood vessels: some destroy the lining of the smaller blood vessels and allow blood to seep into the tissues, producing local or widespread hemorrhages, while others render the blood less coagulable or cause abnormally rapid clotting, leading to circulatory collapse that can be fatal. (derived from Encyclopedia Britannica)

Cardiotoxins are toxins that affect the heart. (derived from Merriam Webber)

Neurotoxins are toxins that act on the brain and nervous system and can cause either nervous excitation (characterized by such symptoms as muscle cramps, twitching, vomiting, and convulsions) or nervous depression (with such symptoms as paralysis and weakening or arrest of respiration and heartbeat). (derived from Encyclopedia Britannica)

Paralysis is a loss or impairment of voluntary movement in a body part, caused by injury or disease of the nerves, brain, or spinal cord. (derived from dictionary.com)

Asphyxiation is death or loss of consciousness through the impairment of normal breathing. (derived from dictionary.com)

Hypotension is abnormally low blood pressure. (derived from Merriam Webber)

Anticoagulation is the process of hindering the clotting of blood. (derived from Merriam Webber)