04/17/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

How This Critter Can Save Your Life

Sure, you know these five creatures as stinging, biting merchants of death. But isn't it time we put aside our differences and embraced the positive?

1. Poison dart frogs: The heart-healthy choice

It could kill you: You know an animal is bad news when its sweat was once considered a state-of-the-art military technology. Meet the poison dart frog, which secretes a highly dangerous neurotoxin, called batrachotoxin, through its pores.

In fact, various Latin American tribes used to collect the stuff (carefully) to poison the tips of their arrows for hunting and warfare. Interestingly, however, the frogs don't produce their own toxin. They get it from eating insects that most likely pick up the poison from the plants they consume. The same frogs, if raised in a laboratory rather than the rain forest, aren't poisonous at all.

But it just might cure you: Before batrachotoxin stops your heart, it speeds it up. Consequently, medical experts believe it might be possible to tweak elements of the frog's toxin to bring patients out of cardiac arrest and potentially save lives. And because it also deadens nerve endings, batrachotoxin has potential as an ingredient in anesthetics. Video Watch how gator blood may be become super drug »

Studies into other uses of the toxin are still in the early stages, but the frog's medical benefits bolster the argument for preserving the rainforest. Most scientists believe we've only just begun to grasp the pharmaceutical possibilities of some of the world's rarest and deadliest creatures.

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