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ARTICLE

Poisons and toxins

Poisons are substances that cause harm to organisms when sufficient quantities are absorbed, inhaled or ingested. A toxin is a poisonous substance produced within living cells or organisms ...

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ARTICLE

Investigating toxins – introduction

Poisonous creatures are fascinating – from a distance. New Zealand is often touted as a good place for people to live because it’s free from seriously poisonous plants and animals – or so we ...

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ARTICLE

Poisonous animals in New Zealand

New Zealand has a very small number of poisonous animals. These animals are also called ‘venomous’ as their toxins (venoms) need to be injected by a bite (for example, spiders) or sting (for ...

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Toxins and food webs

All living things depend on one another to live. Animals eat plants and/or animals to survive. Food webs describe the feeding connections between organisms in an ecosystem. The three main groups ...

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Measuring toxicity

Toxicity can be measured by the effect the substance has on an organism, a tissue or a cell. We know that individuals will respond differently to the same dose of a substance because of a number ...

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ARTICLE

Butterfly defence mechanisms

Butterflies are the exhibitionists of the insect world. For many invertebrates, camouflage is the best defence against predators, so how do brightly coloured butterflies protect themselves? The ...

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ARTICLE

Poisonous plants in New Zealand

There are over 100 poisonous plants in New Zealand. As children grow up, they often come into contact with plants that have poisonous properties. However, children usually don’t eat enough of a ...

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ACTIVITY

Tracking toxins

In this activity, students model bioaccumulation of toxins in marine animals. They participate in a food web game where feeding decisions determine their survival. By the end of this activity ...

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ARTICLE

All in the dose

Poisons are substances that can be lethal. They are chemicals, either manufactured or naturally produced. We know that everything is made from chemicals, so are all chemicals poisons? Actually ...

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ARTICLE

Food poisoning

The food we eat can poison us. There are over 200 known diseases that can be transmitted by food. Bacteria or viruses are the main cause of food poisoning. Food poisoning is usually the result of ...

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Sea slugs and TTX

Investigations into the death of some dogs on Auckland beaches in 2009 led scientists from the Cawthron Institute to discover the presence of high levels of deadly tetrodotoxin in grey ...

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ARTICLE

Poisons – timeline

This timeline gives key dates relating to early discoveries about poisons and toxins. 850 BCE - Homer Homer writes of the use of arrows poisoned with venom (ancient Greek – toxikon) in the epic ...

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ARTICLE

Grey side-gilled sea slugs

In 2009, some grey side-gilled sea slugs (Pleurobranchaea maculata) were found to be toxic following the deaths of several dogs on Auckland beaches. It was not previously known that these slugs ...

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Solving the dog death mystery

During 2009, several dogs died on Narrow Neck and Cheltenham beaches in Auckland. While the general public were speculating over their deaths, scientists from Cawthron Institute, who had long ...

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ARTICLE

Toxicity

A toxic substance is one that is harmful to living organisms or cells. Toxicity is the level of harm a toxin can cause, so you would need only a small amount or a short exposure to a substance ...

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ARTICLE

Hormone-toxins to reduce possum fertility

Scientists in New Zealand investigated whether a roundworm parasite could be used to deliver a hormone toxin to possums. This article looks at the research by scientists at ...

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ARTICLE

Soil contamination

A site is considered to be contaminated when the levels of hazardous substances found at a site are significantly higher than that of ‘normal’ levels, and there is likely to be a risk to health ...

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ARTICLE

Kaimoana in the Hauraki Gulf

The discovery of tetrodotoxin (TTX) in the grey side-gilled sea slug is of particular concern to iwi who live around the Hauraki Gulf. Māori are concerned TTX may get into the food chain. Larn ...

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ARTICLE

The National Poisons Centre

The National Poisons Centre (NPC) is New Zealand’s only poison and hazardous chemicals information centre. It is located in the Dunedin School of Medicine at the University of Otago and is funded ...

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