The "Cigarette" Snail

The geographic cone snail is nicknamed the "cigarette" because if you're stung by one of these, you have about enough time to smoke one cigarette before you die.  It's an exaggeration: there have only been a few human deaths attributed to this six-inch snail, but its venom has the power to paralyze a fish instantly. The venom has to work fast because the cone snail moves slowly, and a slow-acting venom would allow its prey to escape.

Ironically, the complex venom in this small snail has huge possibilities for painkilling drugs. Certain proteins in the venom can target specific human pain receptors and can be up to 10,000 times more powerful than morphine, without morphine's dangerous side effects.

Photograph by Kerry Matz, National Geographic

From the Upcoming ueue, submitted by Marilyn Terrell.

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