Poisonous or Venomous Animals
a science webquest by Chris Yukna"... poisons are complex chemicals and can take a lot of energy to make. Why invest in them, when you can steal someone else's? "
The heart of this complex quest is the following question:
Are there any animals that produce their own toxins, poisons, venoms, etc or do all of them live in symbiosis with bacteria that produce toxins for them?
One of the initial tasks of this endeavor is to conduct a broad "web survey" using as many methods as possible to find out as much as one can on the life of one particular animal known for its poison. You are to become the expert on one of the animals in the images below. There are two aspects to this exercise, one explore in depth the habits, characteristics, and attributes of one poisonous animal, and the second create powerpoint presentations with other members of the class.
Mystery Poisonous Animals
Wait a minute... there are no names on these photos. How can you search for these animals characteristics without knowing its name? Now, any quest would not be worth its salt if it did not include a puzzle or two and this one is no different. So, first choose one of the sixteen images of poisonous animals, some widely known others less so. Please choose an animal that you do not know if possible and see if you can find its name exactly.
Obviously if there is a picture of a snake your job is to find out which particular one it is and not make a presentation on snakes in general. These images are only numbered, but they have been taken from prominent websites and have not been altered. Therefore, it should be "easily" possible to find their counterpart.
Yes, at present search engines are notoriously bad at comparing and categorizing images
However, here are a few innovative image search engines that may aid you on your way: tineye , retrivr, or gazopa. Okay, I put in retrievr in there because it is funny.
Back to the overall theme of this quest: Is it animals or bacteria that live within them that produce the venom or poison? This is not as straightforward a question as it might seem. Here are some pointers to help you get started. First, it is a good idea to have taken the Human Microbiota quiz and discussed its implications. While the microbial colonies that we co-exist with may not be pertinent to all animals, humans share many of the same DNA or genes as other animal phylum and thus they can represent a sort of overview of microbial cohabitation. Being aware of the peculiarities of biofilms and microbial colonies as well as the difficulties in culturing bacteria is essential. Remember to listen to the other students presentations and look for details that might indicate that the hypothesis is correct or not. Indeed, these presentations will provide a sort of communal overview or generalization of all the animals that use poison to hunt, for defense,or survive and represent a holistic perspective on their biology.
Once you have identified your animal there are some pertinent places to begin your search are Yebol, Wolfram Alpha, Scholar, Cybernautilus , Pieisgood , Delicious, IceRocket. Now one of the things that my students often forget is that there are books that they can consult like at Amazon , and Google Books. Moreover there seem to be an ever increasing number of quality science and nature videos available on the internet and places like YouTube, Foooo, Strimoo,Truveo, etc are where to go and find them.
Why not just use Google, and Wikipedia... everybody else does? One reason is that this a science webquest and some of these sources are peer reviewed.. Evidently as well, part of the challenge is to obtain a pretty good feel for how to search the web and what kind of resources are available. Moreover, this question is not yet answered by the scientific community and while Google and Wikipedia are great for generally known things they may give you too much of a standard perspective.
During this "appraisal" keep a lookout for anything that confirms or the premise of only symbiosis or evidence of bacterial colonies at the center of toxin production. Normally, a parallel search of the venom or toxin is suggested. This also means that you should make some tangent queries with keywords like bacteria and symbiosis etc. You might want to check out Google's Wonder Wheel or Yebol for some alternative paths to travel. Sometimes they can generate interesting results and other times fail miserably. One of the wonderful things about the Internet is the ability to contact interesting people from all over the planet. Keep this in mind when investigating . Don't forget that forums are there for questions and authors of blogs and websites can be contacted. Another interesting aspect that may occur is that you may collect a rich compilation of information on this specific animal such that you can significantly improve any Wikipedian entry on this topic. Editing Wikipedia is not required but is definitely a bonus. Becoming a member of Wikipedia and understanding how the world edits, stores, and shares its knowledges is both edifying and instructive.
The second part of this exercise is share what you have learned with other students and your teacher. Hence, it is necessary to produce a pecha kucha on the animal chosen with a minimum of at least ten slides. As they say on igniteshow : "enlighten us... but make it quick". This oral presentation is an excellent way to put together, illustrate and present your ideas. Note: it will appear daunting to get all of the information together to present in such a short time.
Once you have completed your informal survey, become a poisonous animal expert, and given your brief presentation, the next step is to discuss or debate in class the questions
How successful are these animals?
What are the general characteristics of these animals?
Where are their habitats?
Do they have any traits in common?
And finally: are there any animals that actually produce their own poisons?
A good science webquest asks a question that has not yet been answered. While I have not investigated most of these animals in depth during the writing of this webquest I could not help but notice that several of these animals share the same toxin. At the moment of writing the question of the existence of this poison symbiosis has not yet been resolved. Don't expect to find an article already written. You should form your own opinion with reasons to back it up.
PS: there are lots of other poisonous or venomous animals not on this list like the Brazilian wandering spiders (Phoneutria), sea slugs, xanthid crabs, etc. or you can go to even more mystery venomous or poisonous animals.