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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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ARTICLE

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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ARTICLE

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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ARTICLE

1080 and the risk to non-target species

In 2017, New Zealand’s Biological Heritage National Science Challenge surveyed 8,000 people about pest control, and 84% agreed that pests are a significant conservation problem. However, there is ...

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ARTICLE

1080 – an overview

1080, or sodium fluoroacetate, is a poison used to control pest species. It is the salt form of a naturally occurring toxin found in poisonous plants in South America, Africa and Australia. New ...

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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

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

The chemistry of 1080

1080 is the brand name for sodium fluoroacetate – a manufactured poison. It is the sodium salt of a naturally occurring plant toxin called potassium fluoroacetate. Plants use this toxin to defend ...

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ARTICLE

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

1080 and water quality

New Zealand uses 1080 to control introduced pests. Decades of research show that 1080 degrades quickly in water and soil. There are also regulations that protect drinking water supplies. There ...

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ARTICLE

1080 – a wicked problem

Aotearoa New Zealand faces a wicked problem – do we kill introduced pests or do we allow them to kill our native animals, damage our forests and endanger our primary industries? While most New ...

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ARTICLE

Alternatives to 1080

Hunting, trapping and poisons are the three most commonly used methods of mammalian pest control in New Zealand. Each method has benefits and limitations. Extensive research is focused on ...

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