Here’s why poisonous animals don’t poison themselves
Toxic birds and frogs have evolved a way to avoid harm—but not in the way we thought.
In the forests of New Guinea lives a small, drab bird with a deadly secret. It’s called the hooded pitohui, and its orange and black feathers are laced with poison.
Simply touching the feathers of a pitohui is enough to make your hands feel like they’re on fire. But ingest a bit of the batrachotoxin, called BTX for short, and the poison stops your sodium channels from working, leading to paralysis and even death.
“You can think about these poisons as kind of a natural drug. It’s something that the animals use to protect themselves, because it… either gives a very unpleasant feeling to the thing that’s trying to eat them, or in the worst case, it kills the thing that’s