Bad Fish, Bad Bird
Neurotoxin Poisoning from Fish and Fowl
Department of Biology
This "clicker case" is based on the General Biology edition of James Hewlett’s “Bad Fish” case in our collection. The case follows the story of biologist Dr. Westwood, who is accidentally poisoned, first while traveling in Asia and then in the South Pacific. Students learn about Dr. Westwood’s experiences and about nerve cell physiology—focusing especially on the role of ion channels in maintaining and changing electrical gradients across the cell membrane (resting potential and action potentials). They then apply what they learn in each part of the case to determine the mechanism of neurotoxin poisonings described in the case. The case is presented in class via PowerPoint (~2MB). Students use personal response systems, or “clickers,” to answer the multiple-choice questions that punctuate the PowerPoint presentation as they explore the underlying mechanism of Dr. Westwood’s poisoning.
- Apply basic concepts of cell membrane structure and function to answer questions related to the case.
- Compare resting and action membrane potentials in a nerve cell using knowledge of membranes and transport mechanisms.
- Explore the function of a neuron by using knowledge of cellular membrane potentials.
- Recognize the actions of neurotoxins at the molecular level of cell function.
- Demonstrate understanding of the difference between motor neurons and sensory neurons.
- Explain the mechanism of action of an unknown neurotoxin using basic experimental observations.
KeywordsNeurotoxin poisoning; tetrodotoxin; TTX; dissociation constant; membrane transport; membrane potential; action potential; molecular interaction; nerve cell; neuron; nervous system; ion channel; puffer fish; pitohui; bird; Indonesia, Papua New Guinea
Educational LevelHigh school, Undergraduate lower division
Type / MethodsClicker, Interrupted
Subject HeadingsBiology (General) | Cell Biology | Physiology | Molecular Biology | Biochemistry |