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The creature I will describe I came up with solely to fill one purpose in my narrative: to provide narcotic venom. I obviously wasn’t going to portray opium in my story, now was I? So many dead plants! It’s barbaric overkill! Anyway, good worldbuilding means that this creature will need more background to it than simply serving as a resource.

Answering questions like: what does it eat? Where does it live, and how does it reproduce? But I’ll get to that later. First, what does it look like?

It’s basically a scorpion lookalike, except it lacks the signature pincers and is a vertebrate roughly the size of a house cat. It has four gleaming eyes and a pair of pincer like mandibles worthy of the predator movies. Each of its eight legs is tipped with two toes that end in sharp claws. The tail of the critter is very much like a scorpions but also takes a page from earwigs. Two stingers on the tip of its tail can snap shut and deliver the venom. The creature described here sounds threatening but is actually covered by a layer of opaque fur, greatly undermining its terrifying anatomy.

It functions as an obligate carnivore. The breed in the story is domesticated but is native to the deserts where it hunts at night. They are quite chill animals and are cold-blooded to boot. Females of the species are slightly larger.

How does narcotic venom benefit the creature in any way? (Besides getting high)

I have vague ideas of how its venom would come into play, though haven’t decided on the composition of the venom yet. It’s prey is something like kangaroo rats. (Also a name suggestion would be appreciated. Good names only occur to me on blood moons every third year.)

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    $\begingroup$ “Besides getting high” does it really need a reason other than that? $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Jan 1 at 0:15
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    $\begingroup$ Why we sedate ? we don't want you to scream and call in a magic raven, while we nibble off a piece $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Jan 1 at 1:13
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    $\begingroup$ I feel like, as exampled numerous times below, there are enough real world examples that you don't really need to explain why that is. It could even leave an opening for the audience to expand the lore in their own minds purely by assuming any of the possible reasons, therefore making them more engaged with the story. $\endgroup$ Jan 1 at 7:54
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    $\begingroup$ I can't think of a cold-blooded animal with fur, I expect that there might be reason for this. You may want/need to consider explaining that feature also? $\endgroup$ Jan 1 at 18:44
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    $\begingroup$ @LamarLatrell Plenty of insects have hair in places - sometimes completely covering them, in the case of certain caterpillars $\endgroup$ Jan 1 at 19:51

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How about... food preservation?

Paralyzed or sedated bodies, unlike dead ones, don't decompose. This might allow a small animal such as yours to fully consume a prey much larger than them, no matter how long the process takes. (Maybe they, inadvertently, repeatedly inject their venom during eating, keeping the prey constantly sedated.)

The prey's own immune system and circulation will keep the body fresh and ready to consume for a much prolonged period of time.

Additionally, as part of the flight or fight response during the hunt, unpleasant chemicals, such as adrenaline, might taint the flesh of the prey (look up stress effects on meat quality). These chemicals clear out naturally if the body is kept alive, as opposed to killing the prey outright.

It also provides protection from competition:

Any prey under the effect might be easier to carry to a safe eating location such as a burrow or a cave - maybe someone higher up in the food chain wouldn't allow for a safe dining experience out in the open.

The narcotic in the carcass might also affect any other animal trying to feed off it, making it easier to defend one's prey from scavengers.

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  • $\begingroup$ After carefully re-reading each answer I found this to make the most sense in context of the predators origin. Nice answer, thank you. $\endgroup$ Jan 10 at 11:15
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One species narcotic is another species poison.

just look at many drugs today, THC, caffeine, capsaicin, tobacco, peyote, possibly even opium are highly toxic to one group of organisms, but not others. THC and caffeine are toxic to insects but not mammals, capsaicin produces a pain affects mammals but has no effect on birds.

Against the your creatures normal prey (maybe another giant insect) the venom is a paralytic, immobilizing the prey, but to mammals it is narcotic producing the effects you want. the effects on humans is pure coincidence, but since we have several examples of something similar, it is completely believable.

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  • $\begingroup$ To add an even more extreme example to the list: chocolate is poisonous to dogs. $\endgroup$
    – Vilx-
    Jan 1 at 13:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Vilx- to be fair chocolate is also fairly poisonous to us to we just mass a lot more than dogs. Although humans are more resistant even accounting for mass. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jan 1 at 18:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Vilx- no Theobromine (the stuff in chocolate that is toxic) is toxic to humans. It is just that human guts are much better at breaking it down, so the dosage a human receives is much lower. humans are amazing at breaking down a lot of toxins, mostly ones associated with cooking food. You start getting toxic effects at around 100 grams of cocoa, but keep in mind most chocolate is only 10-15% cocoa. Eat 200 grams of baking chocolate however and expect sweeting, headache, and trembling. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jan 1 at 19:13
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    $\begingroup$ This is more or less the answer I was going to give. There are people who spice their food with scorpion venom. There are people who lick poisonous frogs to get high. The narcotic effect may translate into lethality for most of the creature's intended prey. A potent neurotoxin that humans are more or less immune to but temporarily debilitated by? Yep, that's pretty commonplace in the realworld. $\endgroup$
    – Ruadhan
    Jan 2 at 13:22
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    $\begingroup$ I was about to supply an answer involving dolphins and puffer fish but it would have been almost identical to yours. Feel free to use smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/… if you wish =) $\endgroup$
    – MonkeyZeus
    Jan 3 at 17:02
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Reproduction (assistance).

The female stings prey, drags them back to a burrow, oviposits into the sedated creature, and goes to fetch more. The creatures, still alive serve as a host to the growing larval-forms, which eventually emerge as near-adult size, pupate and then go off on their own to hunt, mate create their own larders.

The morning ritual is for the creature to wake-up, examine its captive horde, re-sting as appropriate to keep them pacified and happy - clear-out any empty husks for tidiness, then go and find more food/living incubators to add to the parasitic brood's numbers.

Aside: The larger the prey-animal, the more eggs it can host. It could happen to you or your family and friends.

Name suggestions: Para-scorpion, Parachnid.

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    $\begingroup$ As if a scorpion kitty that could paralyze me and then nibble off appendages wasn't enough nightmare fuel, now I have to contemplate its larva chewing their way around my insides. $\endgroup$ Jan 1 at 6:16
  • $\begingroup$ This answer is inspired by some species of Harry Potter Wasps. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Jan 1 at 15:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Escaped Lunatic I would imagine larger targets would be more risky and therefore less common as targets. Way better to go for a nice medium sized prey than to risk getting bashed in the head. $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Jan 1 at 16:58
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    $\begingroup$ @Daron Could also be inspired by real life. There are real animals that do this sort of thing $\endgroup$ Jan 1 at 19:52
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    $\begingroup$ @AndrewAlexander But Potter Wasps are real. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Jan 2 at 14:00
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They are blood drinkers.

The analogous situation is tick paralysis.

Harm or protection? The adaptive function of tick toxins

Paralysis toxins have a neurospecific effect, and they block neurotransmission (Grattan‐Smith, 1997) in the host leading to paralysis. Both some hard and some soft ticks can produce these toxins; in the latter case, only the larvae produce it that have the longest feeding time on the host. It is assumed that the evolutionary benefit of this trait is stopping the host's grooming activity and prevents the removal of the parasites. This hypothesis is also supported by empirical evidence. In experimentally induced tick paralysis, secretion of neurotoxin coincides with a definite repletion phase and in hard ticks is limited to females only (Mans et al., 2004). In all instances, paralysis coincides with the last rapid engorgement phase that is marked by the production and secretion of numerous protein products by the salivary glands and this is the state where the tick is the most susceptible to be removed by grooming. This indicates that ticks were selected for a trade‐off optimum and gained most of the possible benefits by stopping host grooming while reducing the adverse effects of host paralysis or death.

So too your critter. They envenomate their large prey animals , sometimes as a team. Once it settles down they come have a nice long drink. The animal does not much mind. Later the animal recovers.

It might provide blood again on some later date. It might even volunteer.

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  • $\begingroup$ Sounds like the Kiss to me, especially after the blood drinker context. $\endgroup$
    – KeyWeeUsr
    Jan 2 at 6:23
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Q: they are quite chill animals

Thanks for putting this question and giving us a chance to explain..

It's not easy being small

There is all kinds of myths about us. Look at the first answers here, you got these flesh-rich prey members complaining on WB, about alledged misuse of narcotics by us little predators. We would "keep them alive to lay eggs". Or we would be "vampires, drinking their blood". Woo woo woo

Of course we don't do these things, we are just predators, we want YOU for dinner. Relax !

We can't kill you in any other way

We are small. We can't do anything about that. We can't kill larger prey, they won't die, when we bite them.. only mice die (in the wet season), so we put a trick. Let's immobilize the prey and start nibbling limbs. Most prey appreciates sedation when we do that, but humans.. somehow..

Also we don't want to alarm folks

With our venom, prey won't make loud noise. When there is e.g. screaming ladies voices, the magic raven will come and he'll eat us. Or.. hyena's or vultures or.. anyone stronger than us will come and steal our prey.

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    $\begingroup$ Wow, a cute little 8 legged kitty. Come let me pet you. OW! Bad Kitty! Put that tail away while I'm petting you. Ooooh, I'm feeling woozy. Come cuddle up next to me while I lie down. Hey, stop nibbling my fingers. Oh man, that hurts, but I can barely move. Bad kitty. Stop eating me. Please stop... $\endgroup$ Jan 1 at 6:24
  • $\begingroup$ There we go again. Always these humans to call skorpiats "bad". Ok, let's be clear pal.. stop insulting skorpiats. We aren't little kittens, we do business with humans now, they feed us for our venom. You ain't go tell other people horror stories about cows or pigs, do you ? our herds are productive members of society. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Jan 1 at 20:07
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    $\begingroup$ I'm saving the cow and pig horror stories for later. 😜 $\endgroup$ Jan 2 at 2:32
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They can be predators of their own right, but they are likely not top of the food chain and will have their own predators that actively hunts them. Venom is typically a defense mechanism used to disable their would be predators.

Evolution likes to take the minimum effort to ensure the species propagates. Once it finds a solution, it's done. A top, powerful predator would have little use for developing venom. Even if it did, or once had it, it would devolve it through lack of use or mutations in the species over generations as it discovers it can survive perfectly well without it.

I think your vertibrate scorpion look-alike idea is a fine template to start with. Rather than changing anything it could be a fact for the protagonists to deduce/discover then ultimately bring in the predators to your creature as the solution to fight it off.

EDIT: I realized that snakes tend to have venom as well. This can be a combination of reasons - IIRC most venomous snakes are typically small, and secondly they likely need the venom to paralyze their prey to keep it from running away due to the snake's physical disadvantage in running. As a vertibrate, though, this aspect likely doesn't apply to your creature.

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  • $\begingroup$ I was going to post something similar, but add a need to keep the next step up the food chain alive. Like the pseudo-scorpion hunts mice, but is hunted by wolves. But the wolves also hunt, or at least scare off a certain type of deer the tends to trample the scorps, and also their droppings are toxin to the scorps. Getting eaten by the wolves is bad, but killing the wolves means more deer, which is just as bad. So a toxin that doesn't kill the wolves but lets the scorps escape is ideal. $\endgroup$ Jan 2 at 8:30
  • $\begingroup$ I think that would be a great thing to explore for a story with sufficient length. $\endgroup$
    – user93359
    Jan 2 at 8:43
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, defense. Poison tree frogs are like this -- eating too many of them makes predators sick (which helps the rest of the frogs as the predators learn). Tranquilizing seems as if it would be the same. Even if the predators enjoyed eating 1 or 2 a day, it would have the same "most of us are left alone" effect. $\endgroup$ Jan 2 at 15:47
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They don't string their prey.

The sleeping scorpion stings a goat, the goat survives but the scorpion then follows the goat as it limps around for a few days before being found by a tiger. The tiger kills and eats the goat with the stomach acid speeding up the process of the venom and the tiger collapses, the scorpion attacked a goat and was rewarded with a tiger corpse.

Or for a smaller solution It could drug the young of an animal and use it as bait for the parents,

or drug an animal and wait for a mating partner to arrive.

or drug an animal and push it into a rivals territory to get two kills.

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Feeding from live prey

Particularly if its prey is significantly larger than it, it could sting the prey and then feed on it, without killing the prey, and conceivably without the prey even knowing it is being fed on. This could be something like how a tick feeds, but it could take flesh as well if the venom prevents the prey from feeling it.

If this is done, I would also consider if the beast somehow bandages the wound to prevent the prey dying. This could allow the same prey to be fed on repeatedly. The beast could even inject some form of growth hormone to encourage the wound to heal. Note that both these effects might only work on one or two prey species, which the beast could actually farm.

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  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking along the lines of this: if the little bug lives in an environment with much larger prey, maybe it cannot subdue them, but it can incapacitate them long enough to eat a finger. $\endgroup$ Jan 4 at 4:44
  • $\begingroup$ @CarlosArturoSerrano A finger tends to be noticeable. A bit of thigh muscle, perhaps not so much. But I think the idea is right. And "incapacitate" isn't needed -- it just has to not be noticed as it feeds. $\endgroup$
    – David G.
    Jan 6 at 19:46
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The poison is a muscle relaxant

There are existing snake venoms in the real world that work somewhat similarly, although I wouldn't advise trying to get high off of any of them.

To get high instead of dying when your diaphragm gets too relaxed to function, just take less of it.

Since the creatures usual prey is quite small, it doesn't stretch belief at all that it wouldn't be potent enough to harm a human unless they took a bunch of it.

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Slightly different to the 'One species narcotic is another species poison.' answer, which is in fact my personal favourite, I present:

The narcotic is a venom, just at a different doesage. At high dosages it causes death, as you would expected, but as part of that process it messes with your head first. It follows that at low dosages you only feel the 'minor' effects rather than the fatal ones.

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Lure of the Vampire:

Your obligate carnivores never kill their prey - directly. They sting large animals who then adopt the creature and keep it close. The predator drinks their blood, while the large animal wanders around in a blissful haze, happy to be stung.

Eventually the large animal gets eaten by another predator, or starves to death, or breaks a leg and doesn't notice. At that point, your kitty uses all those legs to jump on the back of another large, warm cozy predator and sting them until they calm down and let the kitty start taking love nips from its veins.

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They could be specialized for hunting social animals, who are likely to come to the aid of their brethren. The purpose of the narcotic would be to capture the prey without killing it, instead making it draw the attention of more prey. The high would keep the prey moving, but not very quickly nor aware of its demise.

The killing could be done either by injecting a different poison or by the original poison itself after some time has passed, in which case the deadly part could be dependent on dosage as others have suggested. They could also hunt in packs, allowing them to entrap multiple animals more easily. So instead of many of them each seeking their own prey, they would only need to find one and the whole pack would likely be able to eat.

This does have some risks for the scorpion, such as the prey being snagged by something else or managing to be rescued while they wait.

I also suggest the name 'Scorpium', if you don't mind being on the nose. Maybe 'Sandman knights', since they 'wear' armor and put you on a pleasant dream-like state. Well, also because they live in the desert.

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Selective breeding. To the point it becomes a pet for drug addicts.

People discovered this animal that would sting it's prey with a potent sedative that could kill, use to catch prey to feed and defend itself from being food. Some people got stung but were big and strong enough to survive, instead getting a warm fuzzy feeling for a while. They found this sting appealing and would keep animals alive that didn't kill anyone, breeding the animals with others to get animals that could best produce this warm fuzzy feeling versus waking up dead. Some of these animals got out in the wild, because someone just stung with a big shot of what is effectively heroin might not be so careful on preventing it from getting away. Many generations of domestication, animals escaping to the wild, their offspring captured alive for more warm and fuzzy stings, followed by more selective breeding, eventually results in all wild animals being no different than the domesticated animals.

These animals in the wild are still able to survive because their stings into smaller animals will still be lethal, or leave the prey so sedated they can't put up any real defense. It would diminish the defensive effect as the stings would no longer be a near instant death to predators. Populations of this animal left long enough in the wild would revert to a state much like it was before it was domesticated. Think of a population of domesticated dogs out in the wild that would in time get larger, stronger, more aggressive, and with thicker coats, becoming more wolf-like as that was the state of the species before being domesticated into smaller, more sedate, creatures that women would carry in purses like a stuffed toy.

No doubt domesticating an animal that stings people with a recreational drug might be frowned upon. The animal would be lethal to children, and some adults, especially if there was more than one and they acted in a kind of pack. This would be a black market trade, or at least a "grey market" with some people trading in them legitimately (for zoos, perhaps people extracting the venom for medical use, and maybe as a kind of guinea pig for research) selling some under the table for recreational use.

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The dose makes the poison

There are many poisonous compounds that have interesting psychoactive effects in smaller doses.

A predator that targets much smaller pray than us may very plausibly apply quantities of venom that are definitely fatal for its pray, but for humans that dose is small enough to only have whatever effect is required by the story.

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Reproductive strategy #2.

The female, when ready to mate will attract males through scent (or sound etc.). The first male to get to her will attempt to sting her and mate.

More-often-than-not the males will get stung themselves and fail. The next to arrive will try. Rinse and repeat until one finally gets her paralysed enough to comply. (Yes, rather distasteful in human terms).

After that mating, and possibly a few successive attempts by other males, the female will awaken. Being much larger than the males, the female is alert and ready for action before the assorted suitors are able to rouse. This gives the female a plentiful and protein-rich food supply to use as fuel to grow the young within her. There may even be reason for her to adopt strategy #1 at this point and store the spare suitors in her larder as living incubators to eggs she may lay in them. Perhaps removing their legs/stingers to ensure cooperation. (Revenge of the she-scorpion for the GHB treatment earlier).

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Hunting

You said a predator, which means that they hunt. Let's say this animal is immune to it's own poison. It can sleep an animal, which will make it easier to kill and eat.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hi @Eta623 welcome on WB.. I've a tip: before you put an answer, read the other answers. If you can't add anything in your answer, that answer will be downvoted, sometimes deleted. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Jan 4 at 0:15
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Smoking scorpions to get high is already a thing.

If we don't imply constraints that the venom has to have narcotic properties as used by the creature and that creature has to survive - look no further. It's happening in reality: A scorpion is put over burning coals, sometimes alive, and the resulting smoke inhaled.

And you thought opium is barbaric...

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