Sep 19, 2008

The World's deadliest snakes

Black Mamba

Scientific name: Dendroaspis polylepis
Size: 2.5 – 4.5 metres
Location: Africa
Habitat: Grasslands, bushes and small trees
Food: Small birds and rodents
Breeding: Between 10 and 25 eggs
Venom amount: 100-120 mg average up to 400 mg and can kill a human in 20 minutes. Without treatment the mortality rate is 100%, the highest among snakes.

Eastern Coral Snake

Scientific name: Micrurus fulvius
Size: To 80 cm
Location: The Americas
Habitat: In the ground, leaf litter, under rocks
Food: Other small snakes, and other small fossorial species.
Breeding: 3-12 eggs
Venom amount: Average 2-6 mg with a maximum of more than 12 mg.

Photo credit: LA Dawson

Saw-scaled viper

Scientific name: Echis carinatus
Size: Between 38 and 80 cm
Location: Asia, Indian subcontinent and Middle East
Habitat: Sand, rock, soft soil and in scrublands
Food: Rodents, lizards, frogs and large insects
Breeding: 3 to 15 live young
Venom amount: Average 12 mg

Indian Cobra

Scientific name: Naja naja
Size: Between 1-2 metres
Location: Indian subcontinent
Habitat: Throughout the mainland from sea-level up to 2000m
Food: Rodents, toads, frogs, birds and other snakes
Breeding: 12 to 30 eggs
Venom: Powerful post-synaptic neurotoxin paralyzing muscles, and possibly leading to respiratory failure or cardiac arrest.

Image credit: Saleem Hameed

Death Adder

Scientific name: Acanthophis Antarcticus
Size: 70-100cm
Location: Most Of Australia
Habitat: Woodlands, grasslands and heaths
Food: Small mammals, birds and reptiles
Breeding: Live-Bearing between 10-20 young
Venom amount: World’s fifth most venomous snake


Scientific name: Dispholidus typus
Size: Average 100 cm
Location: Southern African
Habitat: Trees
Food: Lizards, frogs, and occasionally small mammals, birds and eggs
Breeding: Eggs
Venom amount: 4–8 mg. Venom is primarily a haemotoxin which disables the blood clotting process and a victim may die as a result of internal and external bleeding.

Beaked seasnake

Scientific name: Enhydrina schistosa
Size: Average 110 cm
Location: South and Southeast Asia, Australia
Habitat: In the coast and coastal islands
Food: Fish and eels
Breeding: Live bearing into water
Venom: It is rated four to eight times as toxic as cobra venom and 1.5 mg is estimated to be lethal, but seasnakes are mostly considered generally mild tempered and rarely bite.

Banded krait

Picture by
'User:AshLin on Wikimedia Commons
Under license Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike 2.5

Scientific name: Bungarus fasciatus
Size: Around 180 cm
Location: India, Southeast Asia
Habitat: Forests to agricultural lands
Food: Snakes, also fish, frogs, skinks and eggs
Breeding: Egg laying
Venom amount: It is neurotoxic but due to the snake's behaviour snake bites on humans is rare.

Inland Taipan

Scientific name: Oxyuranus Microlepidotus. Also known as as a fierce snake.
Size: To 200 cm
Location: Central Australia
Habitat: Dry Plains And Grasslands
Food: Small rodents, small birds and rats
Breeding: Egg-Laying
Venom amount: The most venomous snake in the world averaging at 44 mg but 110 mg is the highest ever yield.

Brown snake

Scientific name: Pseudechis Australis
Size: To 200 cm
Location: Australia
Habitat: Forests to deserts
Food: Frogs, small mammals
Breeding: Live-bearing

Tiger snake

Scientific name: Notechis Scutatus
Size: To 1.2M
Location: Eastern Australia
Habitat: Forests, open grasslands
Food: Frogs
Breeding: Live-bearing, up to 30 at one time

King Cobra

Scientific name: Ophiophagus hannah
Size: This is the world's longest venomous snake, growing to a length of 5.7 m and weighing up to 9 kg.
Location: South-east Asia and India
Habitat: Dense highlands and forest
Food: Mainly other snakes (Ophiophagus means 'snake eater') as well as lizards, birds, and rodents.
Breeding: Egg laying – up to 50 eggs
Venom amount: Venom is primarily neurotoxic and acts specifically on nerve cells. Less toxic than other snakes but due to its size it can deliver much more venom.

Southern Pacific Rattlesnake

Scientific name: Crotalus viridis helleri
Size: 61-139 cm
Location: US and Mexico
Habitat: Seaside dunes, to desert scrub, grassy plains, rocky hillsides
Food: Birds, lizards, snakes, frogs, insects, and small mammals
Breeding: Live-bearing
Venom amount: Lethal venom dose for humans is 70-160 mg and adults can produce up to 112 mg of venom

Russell's Viper

Scientific name: Daboia
Size: Up to 166 cm
Location: Indian subcontinent, China and Taiwan
Habitat: Any habitat apart from dense forest and humid environments.
Food: Rodents mainly, but also cats, land crabs, scorpions
Breeding: Live litters of 20-40 are common
Venom amount: Reported venom yields range from 130-250 mg.

Photo credit: Sandilya Theuerkauf, Savandurga, Bangalore.

When snakebites do happen much tissue damage occurs in the region of the bite and infection can spread rapidly.

One such account is that of a 13 year old boy who was bitten by a Northern Pacific rattlesnake on his hand. In all he spent 35 days in hospital and had 10 surgeries.

The following few pictures show graphic scenes from the operation and the damage caused by just one bite. Not for the faint of heart

36 hours after bite

Arm during the 2nd surgery, 36 hours after the bite. You can see how unhealthy all the tissue is.

Second surgery

The hand, also during the 2nd surgery shows loads of dead tissue in the palm.

5th surgery, day 12

Hand during the 5th surgery, on Day 12. There is still a huge amount of dead tissue, but progress on cleaning it out has been made. The surgeons have started the long process of closing the hand, using staples and rubber bands.

8th surgery, day 23

Skin graft day 35

Skin graft on arm on Day 35. The holes have begun to fill in with tissue and the graft edges are starting to attach to the surrounding skin.

Vascular flap surgery

Hand 3 days after vascular flap surgery to fix the thumb position back to normal. The surgeons took a chunk of skin and muscle from the back, attached its artery and vein using microsurgery, and then stitched it to the arm. This took 6 hours.

A small section of black tissue is visible below the flap. This is where there was blood clotting causing the tissue to die, and over the following month new tissue grew to replace the dead, leaving no permanent damage.

Many thanks to Justin Schwartz who let us use these pictures. You can read about his story and view some more pictures



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