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Australia's Little Assassins
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Discover AUSTRALIA'S LITTLE ASSASSINS, venomous creatures, which bite, sting and shoot darts as a means of conveying their lethal fluids.

When animals are the subject, most people associate Australia with lovable koalas and leaping kangaroos. But an even more distinctive aspect of Australian wildlife is its abundance of animals -- from snakes and spiders to a host of marine life forms and at least one mammal -- that use venom to defend themselves, attack prey, and in some cases help digest food.

One such creature, most disturbingly, isn't always a denizen of the wild. The red back spider, whose venom can be deadly to humans, seems to actually prefer a concrete environment to grass and trees. An estimated 350 people are bitten by red backs each year in Australia's cities, but relatively few deaths result these days because an antidote to the venom is widely available.

As for the animal that owns the rare mammalian distinction of bearing a venomous spur on its hind leg, why, it's none other than the famous duck-billed platypus. But researchers haven't yet figured out why the animal has evolved this weapon, since it doesn't appear to use it against prey.

Australia is full of hidden dangers from the stings and bites of creatures that slither, crawl, swim, and sometimes just wait motionless for a victim to make accidental contact. But the truth is, most of the continent's venomous wildlife has no interest in attacking humans. So enjoy Australia's great outdoors, but do be careful where you sit down.



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View the Production Credits.
Special Features
Australia's shores
A Lethal Land
The home of many venomous creatures.
Antivenom
Venom Rx
Researchers are seeking cures in venom.
A black spider
Deadly Creatures
The facts about these dangerous animals.
Danger Down Under Quiz
Quiz
Take our quiz on Australia's creatures.
A puffin
Resources
Links and books related to the program.
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