Venomous snakes can be found almost anywhere in the world. Their powerfully dangerous properties have been the subject of human fascination for thousands of years.
While it’s not likely that you’ll die of a venomous bite any time soon, it’s always helpful to know a dangerous reptile when you see one. Also, pay attention to the LD50 values for the snakes listed. LD50, which means lethal dose 50%, is the amount of venom required to kill 50% of test mice. A number of less than 300 mg/kg is considered highly toxic.
While they may not have the most potent venom, they inject enough of it into one bite to cause serious issues. One bite is almost 1.5 teaspoons worth of venom, which is enough to kill 20 people. The king cobra has an LD50 of 1.31 to 1.93 mg/kg. The venom attacks the central nervous system, leaving victims with blurred vision, drowsiness, and eventual paralysis, followed by death. The king cobra has comes with quite the reputation, but this may not be entirely fair: they usually have a placid disposition and are not aggressive.
Part of the Bitis genus, the puff adder is the most widespread species of venomous snake on the continent of Africa. It’s venom attacks cells, making it more dangerous than other types of venom. Its LD50 ranges from 1.32 to 2.0 mg/kg, and it typically yields 15-350 mg of venom. 100mg is enough to kill an adult male in 25 hours. Another reason the puff adder is so dangerous is its personality; it sits quietly when first approached but aggressive when confronted.
The black mamba is as equally feared as the puff adder in Africa, as it is also quite aggressive. It’s venom attacks the nervous system, and victims can show symptoms as soon as 10 minutes after being bitten. Black mamba bites usually deliver 100-120 mg of venom, and the LD50 lies at about .32 mg/kg. Symptoms of a bite include drooping eyelids, vomiting, and collapse within 45 minutes. The mamba species are known for being particularly dangerous and aggressive in Africa and are the subject of much folklore. Some have even said it will chase after humans when agitated.
Also known as the fer-de-lance, the common lancehead is known to reside primarily in South America's lowlands. It has a particularly fast-acting venom, and a strange side effect: temporary or permanent short term memory loss is almost always present in victims. Its venom affects the circulatory and nervous system, causing nausea and paralysis. It has an LD50 of 1.4 mg/kg. This snake can pose safety issues because of its habit of lying on footpaths and in coffee fields, where there is increased foot traffic.
The coastal taipan mainly inhabits northern and eastern Australia, as well as New Guinea. It varies in color, and its venom can kill a human within 45 minutes. With an average venom output of 120mg, the real danger here lies in the potency of the venom, with an LD50 value of just .106-.12 mg/kg. The average bite delivers 10x the amount of venom needed to kill an adult male.
Not to be confused with its relative the coastal taipan, the inland taipan is a shyer and more reclusive member of the same genus. Despite it’s gentler personality, it is more dangerous than the coastal taipan. One estimate says that one bite, with a typical venom output of 44 mg, is potent enough to kill 100 adult men. With an LD50 of .025 mg/kg, the danger of this Australian species is not to be taken lightly.
Another Australian native, the eastern brown snake can be encountered in major Australian cities such as Melbourne and Sydney. Its venom can cause renal failure, collapse, and paralysis, but the eastern brown snake has one saving grace: its first bite does not usually contain venom. Thu, this species has a lower human mortality rate. nonetheless, it’s LD50 is .0365 mg/kg, earning its place on Australia’s Venom Research Unit Top Five.
The common death adder exudes lethality, even just from its name. Native to, again, Australia, it can deliver the fastest strike among all snakes in Australia. It is more widespread than other venomous snakes on the continent, and its venom can cause paralysis and muscle problems due to its neurotoxicity. Death can occur within six hours after being bitten. The venom yield is about 70mg and it has an LD50 od .5 mg/kg.
The eastern green mamba snake was first discovered in 1849. It primarily inhabits southern East Africa and is considered highly venomous. Despite its cheerful green appearance, its venom potency is reason enough to fear it, with an LD50 of .45 mg/kg. Bites often result in fatalities and symptoms of envenomation include dizziness, difficulty breathing, and neurological problems. Luckily enough, the green mamba is not especially aggressive and avoids confrontation when possible.
A native to the southeastern United States, the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is considered the most deadly of the rattlesnake species, as well as the largest. While the LD50 can be lower than other deadly species at 14.6 mg/kg at the weakest, it delivers a high dosage of venom, usually about 400-450 mg. Despite its species, eastern diamondbacks do not always rattle, and some will strike silently.