An encounter with these snakes can be deadly: one bite from these animals is enough to kill a person.
It is estimated that snakes bite about 5.4 million people each year, resulting in up to 138,000 thousand deaths. Venomous snakes kill their victims with poisonous substances produced in a modified salivary gland. The animal then injects this into the prey with its fangs. This venom has evolved over millions of years to induce severe reactions in victims, ranging from sedation and bleeding to tissue death and inflammation. Here are 5 snakes whose venom is not only powerful for small prey, but can also kill humans.
The black mamba is Africa’s deadliest snake and can kill a human with just two drops of venom. Named for the dark, ink-like color inside their mouths, black mambas are actually tan in color. They are an average of 2.5 meters long and can move at a speed of 19 km/h.
The elongated snakes are born with two to three drops of venom in each fang, making them deadly biters from the start. In adulthood, they can store up to 20 drops in each of their fangs. Left untreated, a bite from this African snake is almost always fatal. Once injected, the venom impairs activity at a junction where nerves and muscles connect, causing paralysis. Because the venom is also cardiotoxic, it can cause cardiac arrest
The king cobra is the longest venomous snake in the world and can grow up to 5.4 m long. Thanks to its impressive eyesight, the snake can see a moving human from a distance of almost 100 meters. When threatened, a king cobra uses special ribs and muscles in its neck to inflate its “hood,” or the skin around its head.
Its notoriety rests not so much on the strength of its venom as on the amount it injects into its victims: each bite releases about 7 milliliters of venom, and the snake typically attacks with three or four bites in quick succession. Even a single bite can kill a human in 15 minutes and an adult elephant in just a few hours.
The inland taipan is among the most venomous snakes, even a tiny bit of venom can kill prey (or human victims). They live hidden in the clay crevices of the flood plains of Queensland and South Australia, often in the pre-dug burrows of other animals. When feeling threatened, the taipan curls its body into a tight S-shape before striking with a quick bite or multiple bites. A key component of this venom that sets it apart from other species is the enzyme hyaluronidase. This enzyme increases the rate of absorption of the toxins in the victim’s body. Theoretically, the average amount of venom released by a bite is enough to kill over 230 (up to 250 if the venom gland is full) adult humans, 250,000 mice or 150,000 rats.
Sandrattle vipers are thought to be responsible for the majority of bites and related deaths in India. Instead of the stereotypical “hissing” sound attributed to snakes, this viper begins to “hiss” by rubbing special serrated scales together when threatened. After a bite, there is localized swelling and pain in the area, followed by possible bleeding. Because the venom affects the human’s ability to clot blood, it can cause internal bleeding and eventually acute kidney failure. For a person to survive, they should be hydrated and given an antidote within hours of being bitten.
The boomslang, also known as the African tree snake, is found throughout Africa, but mainly in Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. With its egg-shaped head, oversized eyes, and light green patterned body, the boomslang is quite handsome. It is one of the most venomous snakes with so-called back teeth. These snakes can fold their fangs back into their mouths when not in use. Like other deadly snakes, this one has a hemotoxic venom that causes its victims to bleed internally and externally.
Death from a boomslang bite can be horrifying. Victims experience extensive muscle and cerebral hemorrhage, and blood oozes from every possible opening, including gums and nostrils, and from even the smallest cuts.