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Scorpion vs. Mouse

A Tale of Venom and Action Potentials


Justin F. Shaffer
Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Colorado School of Mines


This flipped clicker case study explores the fascinating relationship between the Arizona Bark Scorpion (the most venomous scorpion in North America) and the Southern Grasshopper Mouse. Initially it would seem that the grasshopper mouse is no match for the scorpion's venom; however, the grasshopper mouse is easily able to eat the scorpion and is largely immune to the scorpion's sting. By working through this case study, students learn about neuron anatomy and physiology as they explore how the grasshopper mouse is able to survive the scorpion's venom. This case study was developed for an introductory biology course for majors, but it could also be used in an introductory biology course for non-majors or in an anatomy and physiology course. The case requires that students learn basic neuron anatomy and action potential physiology prior to class by reading their textbook or by watching videos on the subjects. An optional set of guided questions tailored to Campbell Biology (10th ed.) is included in the teaching notes.

  • Compare and contrast the structures and functions of neurons and glia.
  • Explain how ion channels contribute to membrane potential.
  • Explain how action potentials are generated and propagated.
  • Predict how membrane potential and action potentials may be altered by foreign substances.
Keywords: Neuron; action potential; resting potential; sodium channel; venom; mouse; scorpion; pain;
Topical Area: N/A
Educational Level: Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Formats: PDF, PowerPoint
Type/Method: Clicker, Discussion, Flipped
Language: English
Subject Headings: Biology (General)   Cell Biology   Anatomy   Physiology  
Date Posted: 8/3/2018
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

Teaching Notes

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The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.

  Mouse Impervious to Scorpion's Sting
A brief video showing the fatal interaction between a bark scorpion and a grasshopper mouse. Running time: 1:53 min. Produced by Science, 2013.

I am so excited to try this. I expect to modify it for a ninth grade biology class, but we build bead neurons and study the Mouse Party on the Utah Learn Genetics website

Ann Priess Maclean

Godinez Fundamental High School
Mission Viejo, CA

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