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10 Most Poisonous Animals in the World

Yellow poison dart frog
A yellow poison dart frog (Dendrobatidae) hiding in the aquarium substrate. Image via Betty Wills (Atsme), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Welcome to the top 10 Most Poisonous Animals in the World!

Don’t expect a long list of snakes and spiders. The difference between poisonous and venomous must first be clarified before getting into the animals that make up this list

Poison is a toxin that gets into the body by inhaling, ingesting, or absorbing through the skin. At the same time, venom is a toxin injected into a body by bites, stingers, or fangs.

red frog

Tough to say which we are more likely to come across when out in the wild. To discover which animals contribute to being the most poisonous, continue reading below!

This list is by no means exhaustive, but getting into the list of the top 10 most poisonous animals in the world is a surprising start, so here we go:

Key points

RankAnimalPoison TypePoison MechanismNotable Fact
1PufferfishTetrodotoxin1,200 times deadlier than cyanideLiver, kidneys, and spikes are poisonous
2Striated SurgeonfishDinoflagellatesCan cause neurological damage in humansEats algae containing dinoflagellates
3Rough-skinned NewtTetrodotoxinProduces warning scent before releasing toxinPoison stored in skin, can harm handlers
4Comb StarTetrodotoxinBuried in sand, well-camouflagedAlso known as sea stars, not fish
5Spanish FlyCantharidinUsed historically as an aphrodisiacCan cause nasty boils if used incorrectly
6Poison Dart FrogAlkaloid poisonsStore poison in skin, brightly coloredUsed for blow dart tips in hunting, endangered
7Cane ToadBufotoxinsPoisonous glands in skinToxic skin is a result of an a-symbiotic relationship
8Hawksbill Sea TurtleToxin from dietEats jellyfish and sponges, absorbs toxinsFlesh and fat are poisonous, shell hunted
9Hooded PitohuiBatrachotoxinStores toxin in feathers and skinUnusual toxicity in birds, numbness and burning
10Asian Tiger SnakeBufotoxinSequesters toxin from cane toadsCan be both poisonous and venomous, temperature-dependent
Mechanism Of ActionTetrodotoxin blocks nerve signals, bufotoxin affects heart and moreExtended exposure may lead to death
PreventionAvoid touching or picking animals, advocate for conservationSeek immediate treatment if accidental contact

#1 Pufferfish

Puffer fish
Striped puffer (Arothron manilensis). Near of island Rao, west of Morotai, Indonesia. Image via Rickard Zerpe, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Average LengthVaries by species (e.g., 1 to 2 feet)
Average WeightVaries by species (e.g., 1 to 4 pounds)
LifespanVaries by species (e.g., 5 to 20 years)
HabitatSaltwater (Coral reefs and coastal areas)
RangeTropical and subtropical oceans worldwide
Conservation StatusVaries by species (e.g., some are Vulnerable)

You might recognize this fish as Mr. Sikes from Shark Tale. But what the animation film didn’t teach us was that these fish are highly poisonous.

Also known as blowfish, these fish are a delicacy in Japan. However, the liver, kidneys, and spikes of pufferfish are incredibly poisonous. The toxin these fish produce is tetrodotoxin, which is 1,200 times more deadly than cyanide. One pufferfish is enough to kill 30 human adults.

Without a known antidote, they make number one on the top 10 most poisonous animals in the world. These fish, when threatened, can puff up to two or three times their size by ingesting vast amounts of air and water.

#2 Striated Surgeonfish

Striated surgeonfish
Striated Surgeonfish (Ctenochaetus striatus) Turtle Patch, Pulau Sipadan, Sabah, MALAYSIA. Image via Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Average LengthUp to 7 inches (18 cm)
Average WeightVaries by individual
LifespanUp to 15 years
HabitatCoral reefs
RangeIndo-Pacific region
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Striated surgeonfish are one of the few known herbivores that are poisonous. What makes striated surgeonfish poisonous is what they eat.

Number two on the top 10 most poisonous animals in the world list, this fish eats algae which means it occasionally ingests dinoflagellates. Dinoflagellates, when concentrated, produce a toxin known to cause neurological damage to humans and can be fatal.

The most common surgeonfish is the Blue Tang, which is non-toxic, and also eats algae but cannot digest dinoflagellates unlike the striated surgeonfish that can concentrate dinoflagellates to produce a toxin.

#3 Rough-skinned Newt

Rough skinned newt
A Rough-skinned Newt. Josephine county, Oregon.Image via DSHil, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Average Length4 to 7 inches (10 to 18 cm)
Average WeightVaries by individual
LifespanUp to 15 years
HabitatMoist forests and aquatic environments
RangeWestern North America
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

This North American semi-aquatic amphibian reaches a mere 8 inches (22 centimeters), but don’t pick this guy up for a closer look.

Newts produce tetrodotoxin that is stored in their skins and, when ingested, is particularly poisonous. The number three on the world’s top 10 most poisonous animals uses this toxin to defend itself from predators.

But, before releasing the toxin, it gives off a warning scent to deter its predators. Cases of poisoning have been reported from the handling of the newt with human hands.

#4 Comb Star

Red star
An indian red sea star (Fromia indica), in Maldives. Image via Frédéric Ducarme, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Average SizeVaries by species
LifespanVaries by species
HabitatMarine environments, typically on rocky surfaces
Conservation StatusNot assessed for all species

Comb stars are the most widespread type of sea star in the Indo-Pacific region. Like pufferfish and rough-skinned newts, comb stars poison using tetrodotoxin.

The echinoderm stores the toxin in its spikes or spines.Comb stars bury themselves under a thin layer of silty sea sand, providing them with effective camouflage. They are called sea stars instead of starfish because they are not fish at all.

Sea stars have no brain or blood but do have nervous systems to regulate nutrient flows. Sea stars can also regenerate lost limbs, although it takes a long time.

#5 Spanish Fly

Spanish fly
Spanish fly on the leaf of red currant. The photo was taken in summer in the Oryol region, Orlovsky district, the village of Zhilino. Russia. Image via Valentinka57, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Average SizeApproximately 0.5 to 1 inch (1.2 to 2.5 cm)
LifespanVaries by individual
HabitatVarious habitats, often near plants
Conservation StatusNot assessed

The Spanish fly is not a fly but rather a beetle found across Europe and Asia. These emerald green beetles are part of the blister beetle family because the toxin they produce called cantharidin is a blistering-causing agent.

Cantharidin is known to humans since antiquity. Apothecaries sourced the toxin from Spanish fly dung by royalty and desolate lovers as an aphrodisiac.

But when used in the wrong dosage or prepared incorrectly could lead to the formation of nasty boils. These beetles grow only to a maximum of 0.79 inches (20mm) long.

#6 Poison Dart Frog

Blue poison frog in Germany
Blue Poison Dart Frog (Dendrobates azureus) in the Frankfurt Zoo, Germany. Image via Quartl, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Average Size0.5 to 2 inches (1.3 to 5 cm)
LifespanUp to 15 years (in captivity)
HabitatRainforests of Central and South America
RangeCentral and South America
Conservation StatusVaries by species

The only animal on the list of top 10 most poisonous animals in the world to boast the word ‘poison’ in its name, the poison dart frog is a group of brightly colored and wildly patterned frogs.

These aposematic Central and South American amphibians are also known to produce 28 different alkaloid poisons, accumulating through their diets of ants, termites, and centipedes.

These remarkable frogs reach a size comparable to a human thumb, but their small stature belies a dangerous secret. Poison dart frogs are not to be handled, as they store potent toxins in their skin.

Cane toads, on the other hand, acquire their toxic skin through a unique relationship with the Asian tiger snake, and the toxins are aptly named after their genus, Bufo. Sadly, the escalating threat of deforestation is pushing these frogs further towards the brink of endangerment.

#7 Cane Toad

Cane toad
Cane Toad female, feral in the Tanamai desert, Northern Teritory, Australia. Image via Benjamint444, GFDL 1.2, via Wikimedia Commons
Average SizeUp to 6 inches (15 cm)
LifespanUp to 10 years
HabitatVarious, often near water
RangeNative to South and Central America
Conservation StatusNot assessed

The cane toad, a marine toad, is found ironically on terrestrial land in South and Central America. Number seven, on the top 10 most poisonous animals in the world list, stores a type of poison in its glands called bufotoxins, making it particularly poisonous when ingested.

The toxins produced by cane toads bear the name of their genus, Bufo. The cane toads develop toxic skin due to an a-symbiotic relationship between them and the Asian tiger snake.

#8 Hawksbill Sea Turtle

Sea Turtle
Sea turtle with vibrant colors. Image via Istock
Average Size2.5 to 3 feet (76 to 91 cm)
LifespanUp to 50-60 years
HabitatCoral reefs, coastal areas, and open oceans
RangeTropical and subtropical oceans
Conservation StatusCritically Endangered

Unlike the cane toad, which produces poison, the hawksbill sea turtle is poisonous because of what it eats: jellyfish and sponges. This critically endangered turtle‘s flesh and fat absorb the toxins from the sponges and jellyfish it eats, making them poisonous when ingested but leaving the turtle unharmed.

Despite being critically endangered, hawksbill sea turtles are still hunted for their shells even though their flesh is poisonous. These turtles are so named due to the resemblance of their heads to birds‘ beaks.

#9 Hooded Pitohui

Hooded Pitohui
Hooded Pitohui (Pitohui dichrous) YUS Conservation area on the Huon Peninsula, Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea. Image via Benjamin Freeman, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Average Length9 to 10 inches (23 to 25 cm)
LifespanVaries by individual
HabitatRainforests and wooded areas of New Guinea
RangeNew Guinea
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

A hooded Pitohui from the Pitohui genus, found in New Guinea, ranks as the penultimate among the top 10 most poisonous animals in the world. The bird stores a toxin known as batrachotoxin in its feathers and skin.

The toxin is derived from the diet of the bird. Batrachotoxin is one of the most toxic compounds by weight. Known to cause numbness and burning when human hands handle the bird. Toxicity in birds is unusual, making the hooded Pitohui an exceptionally unusual poisonous animal.

#10 Asian Tiger Snake

Tiger snake
A Tiger snake (Notechis scutatus) at Lake Walyungup, Western Australia. I got within 2 metres of the snake before noticing it but it did not move, happy to pose for a few. Image via Calistemon, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Average SizeUp to 4 feet (1.2 meters)
LifespanUp to 15 years
HabitatWetlands, swamps, and coastal regions
RangeSouthern Australia
Conservation StatusNot assessed

She is commonly known as a tiger keelback. This Asian and southeast Asian tiger snake sequesters its toxin from number seven on this list of the world’s top 10 most poisonous animals: the cane toad.

The snake’s diet consists of cane toads. Hence these snakes have glands along their necks filled with the bufotoxin from the toad to use against its predators. Making this snake the only snake to be both poisonous and venomous.

Due to its known behavioral change based on environmental temperature, this snake can choose when to be venomous and poisonous. That is why this snake seals off the world’s top 10 most poisonous animals.

Mechanism Of Action

purple snake
Purple snake. Image by David clode via Unsplash

Tetrodotoxin and bufotoxin are the two most commonly referred to toxins in this article. The former interfere with transmitting signals from nerves to muscles by blocking the salt channels in the human body.

Bufotoxin may affect the heart, blood pressure, and breathing and can cause paralysis, salivation, twitching, and vomiting in humans. Extended exposure may lead to death.


Rule number one of being in the wild is never touching or picking anything. If you stick to this rule you will most likely avoid contact with most of the animals on this list. Admire them from afar, and count yourself lucky to see them in their natural habitats.

Furthermore, do not be a participant to the trade and sale of these precious creatures as trinkets and mere items. Be activists and voices for them and their habitats. Only with our care and conservation can this beautiful planet and its inhabitants live peacefully and fairly.

If you accidentally come into contact with one of these animals on this list, immediately get to an emergency center or hospital for treatment.

Summary of the Most Poisonous Animals in the World

Coral snake
Roatan Coral Snake. Image via JoelAmaya, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Whether this list surprised you or scared you, identify and recognize some of the animals on this list when you’re out in the wild.

The most important takeaway is that these animals have developed a tolerance to the poisons they exude and consume. As a result, when humans ingest any of these animals, they get poisoned. It is relatively best to leave these animals in peace.

The golden rule when out in nature is to avoid touching anything, especially in the sea, as these are sensitive biomes. Respect this rule, and you are unlikely to be poisoned by any of the mentioned animals!

If you enjoyed reading about the animals above, check out the top 10 fastest animals in the world and top 10 most endangered animals in the world next!

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