The Hooded Pitohui - a Poisonous Bird

YouTube link.

Jack Dumbacher, an ornithologist at the California Academy of Science, describes the discovery of and studies of a neurotoxin produced by this bird from New Guinea.  The batrachotoxin that the bird produces is a sodium-channel blocker that is chemically identical to the neurotoxin used by poison dart frogs, and it is potentially lethal in higher doses.  One assumes that this evolved as a deterrent to predation, so it's interesting that like monarchs and other toxic butterflies, this bird exhibits a strikingly bright warning coloration.

Newest 5
Newest 5 Comments

Very interesting topic. It seems that the bird does not create the poison, but rather has a physiology that can survive eating poisonous beetles. In doing so it's body has become poisonous inside and out. Given it's bright coloration, most notably the eyes, this is likely no accident, but rather a welcomed, or evolved side effect.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Chance, I don't mind pedantry (which is quite common in comment threads here). In this case, the man giving the presentation said he was scratched by the bird, but he didn't experience toxicity at the wound site - it was not after he put his finger in his mouth (to lick the wound) and his mouth began to tingle and burn; another researcher experienced the same phenomenon.

Since the adverse effects occurred after the toxin entered the mouth, I would define it as a poison. And the toxin is identical to the one in poison dart frogs, which are clearly poisonous.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I hate to be pedantic here, but isn't it incorrect to call this bird poisonous? This is a case of a toxin being placed into a wound, which would make it a venom, right?
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.

Email This Post to a Friend
"The Hooded Pitohui - a Poisonous Bird"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More