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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.


Neuron; action potential; resting potential; sodium channel; venom; mouse; scorpion; pain;

Topical Areas


Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division


PDF, PowerPoint

Type / Methods

Clicker, Discussion, Flipped



Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Cell Biology  |   Anatomy  |   Physiology  |  

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

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Teaching notes are intended to help teachers select and adopt a case. They typically include a summary of the case, teaching objectives, information about the intended audience, details about how the case may be taught, and a list of references and resources.

Answer Key

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

  • Grasshopper Mouse vs. Bark Scorpion
    A brief video showing the fatal interaction between a bark scorpion and a grasshopper mouse. Running time: 1:27 min. Produced by Michigan State University, 2014.


Ann Priess Maclean

Godinez Fundamental High School
Mission Viejo, CA
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

Luke Daniels
The College of Idaho
Meridian, ID
This was great. I used parts of this to review electrical signaling/action potentials in my upper-division Neurophysiology class. Thanks for putting it together!