101 Facts… Snakes!

Eastern Brown Snake (Pseudonaja textilis) by Matt, (CC BY 2.0)

101 Facts… Snakes!
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101 Facts... Snakes!

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101 Facts… Snakes!

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Snakes are believed to have evolved from lizards, but scientists are unsure whether they came from burrowing or aquatic lizards.

Fossil of the extinct snake Eupodophis descouensi.

The earliest snake fossils found come from Utah and Algeria, dating from around 94-112 million years ago.

Fossil of the extinct snake Boavus idelmani.

The largest snake to ever exist was the titanoboa. Fossils were found in Colombia, South America and are believed to be 60 million years old. It measured fifty feet (fifteen meters) long.

Titanoboa illustration.

The titano boa is believed to have been the largest predator in the world for about ten million years. Yet in every other way, it was very similar to the snakes of today.

Snakes, now as then, have no legs. They use their scales and strong muscles to move their body. The scales on their bellies have a lot of grip to help them get around.

Milk snake

A snake’s long, thin body means that it has to have its internal organs in a line rather than next to each other. Its kidneys are placed one in front of the other, whereas ours are side by side.

Anatomy of a snake: 1 – esophagus, 2 – trachea, 3 – tracheal lungs, 4 – rudimentary left lung, 5 – right lung, 6 – heart, 7 – liver, 8 – stomach, 9 – air sac, 10 – gallbladder, 11 – pancreas, 12 – spleen, 13 – intestine, 14 – testicles, 15 – kidneys.

Snakes are cold-blooded and usually need the sun to warm them up. If it gets too cold in the winter, then snakes bromate. Hibernation is when mammals go to sleep through the winter. Brumation is what snakes do. However, snakes don’t go to sleep when they gather to stay warm. They stay awake and are just inactive.

British adder sunning itself in Surrey, England.

Snakes don’t have any external ears, but they do have internal ones. The jawbone of a snake picks up vibrations and sends them to an ear bone called the columella. This ear bone picks up vibrations that the jawbone of the snake detects.

Snakes use their forked tongues to smell and taste at the same time. The tongue picks up particles in the air and passes them along to something called a Jacobson’s organ in the roof of the mouth, which analyzes the smells/tastes.

Sharp-tailed snake.

A snake’s forked tongue allows it to tell where a taste or smell is coming from. The tongue is constantly working out what is around it – have I found prey or am I about to become prey?

How good a snake’s vision is depends on the species. Burrowing snakes have poor vision, but the king cobra has excellent eyesight and is believed to have a long memory. This gave rise to the myth that an image of the person who killed one of these snakes was imprinted in the snake’s eyes. It was believed its mate then captured the image and hunted down those responsible.

King cobra.

Snakes are known for their strange unblinking, even hypnotic stare. This odd look occurs simply because snakes don’t have eyelids. They do, however, have a thin layer of skin, or scales, protecting the eyes called a brille. It is only visible when a snake gets ready to molt its skin and the brille appears milky.

Clouded brille of a keelback close to molting.

Snake’s scales are made of keratin – that’s also the substance our fingernails are made from.

Centralian carpet python shedding skin.

Snakes molt, or shed their skin, once or twice a year, with younger snakes molting more – about four times a year. A snake will wriggle its way out of the old skin.

It is this shedding of skin and symbol of renewal that led to the snake being associated with healing in Greek mythology. Asclepius had a serpent-entwined rod and was the Greek god connected with healing and medicine. His symbol is still used today to signify healthcare.

Rod of asclepius.

There is no evidence of there being any snakes in Ireland or on the islands of Iceland or New Zealand at any time since the last Ice Age. However, New Zealand is occasionally visited by two venomous sea snakes: the yellow-bellied sea snake and the banded sea krait.

A banded sea krait off the shoreline of Wakatobi, Indonesia.

The nearest country to New Zealand is Australia, which is well-known for its dangerous snakes. In fact, Australia is the only continent where there are more venomous snakes than non-venomous. Snakes can be found on all the continents except Antarctica.

World distribution of snakes.

Snakes are very similar to sharks in the way they have babies. Some species have one or two babies, some species have over one hundred. Like sharks, snakes have babies in the following three different ways:

Oviparous snakes (pronounced: o-vip-a–russ) are those born from eggs. King cobras and African rock pythons are unusual in that both will make nests and look after their babies for a short time after they hatch. This is a rare trait in the world of snakes.

Baby king cobras.

Viviparous snakes (pronounced: vi-vip-a-russ) grow like mammals in their mother’s womb and are live births. Boa constrictors and green anacondas are born in this way.

Baby South American boa constrictor.

Ovoviviparous snakes (pronounced: o-vo-vi-vip-a-russ). This is an odd mix of the first two methods. The eggs hatch in the mother’s uterus. The young then stay inside her until they are ready to be born.

Water moccasins use this method of having young.

Juvenile western cottonmouth water moccasin.

The snake eggs that come from oviparous snakes are leathery, rather than hard and brittle like chicken eggs. The snake embryo inside the egg has a special egg tooth to open up the egg.

Female Northern African rock python brooding eggs.

A python mother keeps her eggs warm by shivering. She warms herself and her eggs at the same time.

Some snakes use a venomous bite to kill their prey. Some snakes use constriction and stop a victim from breathing to kill them. Some simply grab their prey and swallow it whole and alive. All snakes, however, are carnivores (meat eaters).

Black rat snake nearly finished swallowing a bird.

Snakes have to swallow their prey whole because they don’t have teeth for cutting and chewing food, so they have no choice.

Apart from the fangs of venomous snakes, the teeth of snakes are small, pointy and curve backwards – they are meant for grabbing and gripping prey to stop it from escaping.

Burmese python skull showing gripping teeth and joints.

To help them swallow their prey, snakes have jaws that can separate. They also have a lot of joints in their head. These allow snakes to open their mouths wide enough to eat prey that can be an astonishing three times bigger than their head!

Burmese python with a huge open mouth.

Snakes become dormant or inactive after eating to allow their meal to digest. Snakes are cold blooded (ectothermic) so they find a warm place to help with digestion. The ideal temperature for snakes to digest their food is 30°C (86°F).

One of the largest snakes in Europe, the Caspian whipsnake, suns itself after eating.

Cold blooded animals, and snakes in particular, have a very slow metabolism. This means that they can sometimes go for months without eating again.

Why is a snake that can kill you with its bite known as a venomous snake and not a poisonous snake?

Venom must be injected into victims with fangs or stingers to do any harm. Poisonous plants and animals normally use their toxins passively, and wait to be eaten or tasted – they rely on bright colors to warn animals not to eat them.

Floral snake.

There is one type of snake that is both poisonous and venomous. The floral snake is a venomous snake from East Asia. However, it also takes the toxins from poisonous toads it feeds on and keeps them in glands just below its head. When threatened by a predator, it arches its neck and squeezes the poison out.

Venomous snakes have glands behind their head to store their venom. When needed, it is pushed through the snake’s hollow fangs and injected into the victim. Some snakes, such as pit vipers, also have a special muscle that allows them to force even more venom out when biting a victim.

Red-tailed bamboo pit viper fangs.

Venomous snakes use a variety of different types of toxins in their venom. The toxins work on the victim’s body in different ways. The most common ones attack the heart, the nervous system and red blood cells.

It is estimated that throughout the world each year, at least 421,000 people are envenomed (snakes injected venom into their bloodstream) and 20,000 deaths occur each year due to snakebites. Most of these fatalities occur in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Africa below the Sahara desert.

Map showing the number of global snake envenomings.

Some venomous snakes have no control over how much venom they release. However, not all venomous snakes release venom when defending themselves. Some snakes can give dry bites, with no venom injected, that act as a warning. Other snakes can regulate how much venom they inject.

Horses are used to create treatments for snakebites. The venom of the snake is injected into a horse in bigger and bigger doses until the horse is immunized (the body’s immune system can remember how to protect itself from the venom). Blood is then taken from the horse to make a serum called antivenin (or antivenom). The antivenin is then injected into the snakebite victim to stop the venom doing much harm.

If a snake has venom, it is usually unwilling to waste it on animals too big to eat, unless absolutely necessary. Nearly all snakes, except the very largest constrictors, don’t see humans as prey – luckily, we are too large to swallow whole!

Adult Angolan dwarf python.

Constrictors are non-venomous snakes that are large enough to kill their prey by constricting or squeezing it until the victim can no longer breathe and dies.

A constrictor will bite into a victim with their teeth, wrap around the animal, and constrict it, forcing all of its victim’s air out, and leaving the victim unable to breathe. Once the prey dies of suffocation, the snake swallows it whole.

King cobras are rare because they are venomous snakes that sometimes kill by constriction. This only happens occasionally and with small mammals or birds – king cobras usually eat other snakes.

King cobra.

The African rock python is the largest snake in Africa, with the species in northern parts of Africa even larger than those in southern Africa. The African rock python is so big that it will occasionally even feed on Nile crocodiles!

Southern African python.

The African rock python occasionally becomes big enough to see humans as prey. However, there have only been five reported African rock python attacks on humans in the last sixty years. Most recently, a farmer in Kenya was attacked in 2009 and dragged up a tree, but was able to call for help on his cell phone and survived the attack.

The Barbados threadsnake is the smallest snake in the world. It lives on the Caribbean island of Barbados and is totally blind. It was only discovered in 2008 by biologist S. Blair Hedges.

Barbados threadsnake.

Black mambas are the longest venomous snakes in Africa , and the fastest snakes in the world – moving at speeds of up to twenty km/h (twelve mph).

Why is a brown, gray, or yellowish green snake named the black mamba? Because it is quick to bare its fangs and reveal the inside of its mouth – which is black!

A black mamba often travels with the front third of its body high above the ground to help it spot and sense prey more easily. Once it finds its target, the mamba will pause for a moment before rushing toward the animal with tremendous speed, then deliver quick, repeated bites.

Black mamba.

Black mambas are one of the most deadly snakes in the world, with venom always being fatal unless the victim is quickly given antivenin. Its venom is incredibly fast-acting, able to kill a person within twenty minutes if antivenin is not used. The venom is also toxic, with one bite capable of killing up to forty grown men.

Black mambas are a very real danger to humans in Africa. Their venom is deadly and the lack of proper medical care and the remote locations they live in means that the death rate is at 100% for black mamba bites in many parts of the continent.

Close-up of a boomslang snake Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania.

Boomslangs are very shy snakes that spend most of their lives in trees – boomslang is Afrikaans for “tree snake”. Almost all boomslang bites on humans have occurred when a person was attempting to catch, handle, or kill them. The well-known herpetologist, or snake expert, Karl Schmidt, died from a boomslang bite in 1957.

Boomslang raiding a masked weaver nest.

Although they are native to Southeast Asia, there is now a large population of Burmese pythons living in the wild in South Florida, thanks to their popularity as exotic pets. The snakes escape from people’s homes, or their owners can no longer care for them once they get too large and release them. The pythons then breed in the wild. The pythons in Florida are considered a problem to the ecosystem, and are known as an invasive species.

Burmese python, named Milkshake.

Burrowing asps, or mole vipers, are African/Middle Eastern snakes that avoid the heat of the sun by burrowing underground. They are also unusual in that they have over-sized fangs that they use to stab a victim rather than bite.

The Eastern coral snake is found in the USA and Mexico, and is the ninth most venomous land snake in the world – an adult has enough venom to kill five adult humans. That being said, they rarely bite, and only three fatalities have been attributed to them in the last sixty years.

Eastern coral snake, Jacksonville, Florida, USA.

There are about 100 Eastern coral snake bites reported each year, but fatalities don’t generally occur because antivenin is widely available. Also, only 40% of all bites by coral snakes result in envenomation, due to their relatively small mouths.

The deadly nature of the Eastern coral snake has led to a lot of mimicry in the snake world. The two main examples are the scarlet snake and the scarlet kingsnake. They mimic the distinct pattern of the Eastern coral snake in order to trick predators into thinking that they are venomous snakes–and it tends to work.

Corn snakes got their name from when farmers stored harvested corn in a building called a corn crib. Rats and mice went to these cribs to feed on the corn which, in turn, drew these snakes in to feed on the rodents.

Motley yellow corn snake named Gigi.

The common brown snake, or eastern brown snake, is one of the most feared snakes in Australia, and for good reason. This snake is the second most venomous land snake in the world, with the venom in a single bite potent enough to kill roughly 200,000 mice or twenty adult humans!

Eastern brown snake in Melbourne, Australia.

Chrysopelea, better known as the flying snake, use the ridged scales of their bellies to latch onto the bark of trees and climb up. Then they hang from the end of a tree branch in a J-shape, choose where they are going, and lunge out with their bodies. Once airborne, these snakes flare out their ribs and glide to their desired destination. They slither back and forth in the air to help keep them gliding for distances of up to 100 meters!

Chrysopelea ornata or golden tree snake. Taken at Bangtao Beach, Laguna Phuket.

There are actually five different species of flying snakes. The largest of these is the golden tree snake – also known as the ornate flying snake. They get up to four feet long, but this extra size makes them the weakest fliers of the species group.

The Gaboon viper is the heaviest of all vipers at up to twenty kilograms (forty-four pounds), has the longest fangs of any snake – up to two inches long, and has the highest venom yield – that’s the amount of venom they inject in one bite – of any venomous snake in the world!

Gaboon viper fangs. Photo taken at Chester Zoo, England.

Fortunately, Gaboon vipers are known for being slow moving and docile. In fact, most bites from the Gaboon viper happen because they are so slow and unwilling to move that they are accidentally stepped on.

The garter snake is the single most widely distributed reptile in North America. They live in a broad range of habitats and are so adaptable that the common garter snake is actually the only species of snake found in Alaska.

The garter snake was long thought to be a nonvenomous snake, but it has since been discovered that they do, in fact, possess mild, neurotoxic venom. It is non-lethal to humans, and cannot be effectively delivered to a human because the snake’s fangs are at the back of their small mouths.

Coast garter snake.

Garter snakes rely heavily on pheromones for communication. A pheromone is an emitted chemical that members of the same species use to communicate – similar to how dogs communicate by smelling each other’s urine. They can find other snakes by following the scent of their pheromones along trails, and can immediately distinguish between the scents of male and female garter snakes.

When feeling threatened, garter snakes may occasionally coil and strike like other snakes. However, garter snakes usually hide their head and begin flailing their tail, then let rip with a terrible smell. This stench usually stops predators from wanting to eat them.

The green anaconda has the distinction of being the heaviest snake in the world. However, their maximum size is a matter of debate, as there haven’t been enough captured and examined to determine just how big they can get.

Green anaconda at Caracas, Venezuela.

Green anacondas spend most of their lives in water – and are also known as water boas. Their size means that they move quite slowly on land, but they are incredibly fast swimmers. Their eyes are on top of their head, as are the holes they breathe through. This allows them to stay almost completely under water as they hunt unseen by potential prey.

There are many local legends of green anacondas being man-eaters, but there is no evidence to support this claim. However, a female anaconda sometimes eats a male after mating! This is thought to be because the female needs additional nutrition after mating and the male is simply a nearby source of good food.

The green vine snake is a long, thin snake that is arboreal – that means it lives most of its life in trees.

The snake’s name comes from its natural green camouflage, which allows it to hang from trees, looking just like a harmless vine. They are also known for their prominent and odd-shaped snout!

Green vine snake aka Greeno.

The green vine snake hunts by looking down from trees, searching for potential prey. When a target is spotted, the snake follows it for a short distance before biting down on the head of the animal and lifting it off the ground. This method keeps the prey from escaping as the toxins work their way around its bloodstream. Once the animal becomes immobile, the green vine snake swallows it whole.

Hognose snakes have a remarkable ability rarely seen in snakes – they play dead. They initially try to make themselves look big, and may even try a couple of half-hearted strikes, but soon decide that they are better off playing dead. They fall onto their backs and go very still. If the potential predator refuses to leave them alone, the hognose emits a disgusting stench and rolls its tongue out of its mouth.

Eastern hognose snake playing dead.

The Indian cobra is probably best known for being used by snake charmers in India. The snakes do not hear the music the charmer is playing, but they still appear to be dancing to the music because they are following both the movement of the charmer (to keep the threat in sight) and the vibrations that the charmer is rhythmically tapping on the ground with his foot.

Indian cobras have a very impressive “threat posture”. When the snake feels threatened, it will lift the front portion of its body straight up and flatten out the ribs around its neck, displaying its hood and the spectacle pattern on the back of its neck.

Indian cobra alert and defensive.

The odd design on the back of the Indian cobra’s hood features two circular patterns connected by a curved line, looking a lot like a pair of old spectacles. This gives the snake its alias, “the spectacled cobra.” Hindus believe that this design was the footprint of the Krishna, adding to the reverence and mystique around this snake in the Hindu culture.

Indian cobras possess deadly venom, but there is powerful antivenin for their bite. About 15% of untreated bites from an Indian cobra are fatal. There seems to be less venom injected when they bite in defense, leading scientists to believe that they control the venom they release and only deliver a “warning bite” to a perceived threat.

The Indian cobra–along with the common krait, Russell’s viper, and the saw-scaled viper–is one of the “big four” of India. They are the snakes responsible for the most snake bites on humans in India.

The king cobra is the world’s largest venomous snake, and can reach an amazing 18 feet long, although that particular snake was in captivity at the London Zoo. The record for the heaviest specimen from the wild was twelve kilograms (twenty-six pounds) and was almost sixteen feet (five meters) long.

The venom of a king cobra can kill in as little as thirty minutes, and is fatal in 50-60% of bites on humans. Their venom shuts down both the nervous system and the heart–causing paralysis, then coma, and followed by death. In fact, the venom of a king cobra is strong enough to kill an elephant.

King cobra at Audubon Nature Institute.

The king cobra is able to lift about a third of its body length into the air – so it can be the same height from the ground as a fully grown man! It can do this while moving forward, a behavior that can cause people to misjudge its long reach.

Luckily, king cobras prefer to eat snakes. Their scientific name, Ophiphagus, actually comes from the Greek for “snake-eater”. Their preference is ratsnakes, although they also eat small pythons and other types of cobras. If food is scarce, they eat lizards, birds, and small mammals.

There is one animal that is not afraid of king cobras, and that’s the mongoose. The mongoose is immune to the king cobra’s venom, but the cobra can often intimidate a mongoose into leaving it alone by posturing up, expanding its hood, and hissing. This makes it appear larger, and often the mongoose just moves on to a smaller meal.

The many banded krait is the fourth most venomous land snake in the world. It is so deadly that it has lots of mimics, with one of the best being the Formosa wolf snake.

Many-banded krait found inside a water catchment on Lantau,Hong Kong.

In 2001, Joseph Bruno Slowinski, one of the world’s experts in herpetology (the study of amphibians and lizards) was handed a bag in which he was told was a Formosa wolf snake. He put his hand in the bag and was bitten by a young many-banded krait. Joseph Slowinski, the world’s leading expert in kraits, was dead less than thirty hours later.

Pit vipers have an incredible organ hidden beneath the pits from which they get their name. The pits are the openings between the eyes and the nostrils of the snakes. These openings lead to a pair of organs that give pit vipers a sixth sense – infrared detection. Having a pit organ on each side helps the snakes determine their distance from a target.

Pit viper with pits clearly visible slightly below and forwards of the eyes.

Rattlesnakes are some of the most well-known snakes in the world. The noise of the rattle is used to deter predators, and thanks to Hollywood is an instantly recognizable sound. The rattle itself is a series of hollow segments made from the scales of the snake’s tail. Muscles within the rattlesnake’s tail contract at an incredible speed of fifty times a second, and can keep rattling for up to three hours.

Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, Central Florida, USA.

The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is responsible for the most fatalities from snakebites in the United States. The western diamondback is the viper responsible for the most deaths from snakebite in northern Mexico. It is also responsible for the second most fatalities from snakebites in the United States.

Western diamondback rattlesnakes can live up to two years without food in the wild. Studies have shown that while going without food, they reduce the amount of energy they use in a day by 80%.

Western diamondback rattlesnake.

An even more interesting finding of these studies is that despite their lack of food intake during these times, the western diamondback rattlesnake continues to grow in size!

Russell’s viper is a member of the “big four” snakes of Indi,a and is one of the most notorious snakes in the world for biting humans. They live very near to people, as they feed almost exclusively on the rodents that eat the scraps and waste we leave. The Russell’s viper is so successful that a non-venomous snake called the rough-scaled sand boa has taken to mimicking its appearance.

Russell’s viper.

Saw-scaled vipers, despite their relatively small size, are one of the most dangerous snakes in the world. They are also one of India’s “big four,” and are responsible for a large number of snakebites throughout Africa and the Middle East. They are actually responsible for more snakebite deaths than any other snake in the areas they inhabit. In fact, some scientists say that wherever this snake is found, it is responsible for about 80% of human deaths from snake bites. This is because they are easily irritated, aggressive, and possess deadly venom.

Saw-scaled viper Bannerghatta, India.

One unique aspect of saw-scaled vipers involves their defensive posture. When they feel threatened, they will form an S-shape and begin making a hissing sound. The sound isn’t being made by the snake’s mouth; it is actually created by the snake rubbing its scales together.

Sea snake is a broad term describing sixty-two different species of snake. These snakes evolved from snakes on land, but over time adapted to living in the sea. They spend their lives in water, but do not have gills like fish – they still have to surface regularly to breathe.

The two most useful adaptations sea snakes have for life in the water are their tail, which is shaped like a paddle to help with swimming, and their forked tongues, which are much shorter than a land snake. This tongue is not as long because the scent of prey is easier to catch in the water, and they don’t have to stick their tongue out as far to find it.

Yellow-lipped sea krait.

The majority of sea snakes spend all of their time in the water. This is because most have tiny ventral scales – the scales on the bottom of a snake’s body. This prevents them from moving very well on land, and leaves them open to predators if they get out of the water.

Sea snakes are some of the most venomous snakes in the world – the yellow bellied sea snake is actually the fourth most venomous snake alive. However, they are relatively calm creatures and simply try to avoid human contact. Additionally, they have very short teeth, making it hard for them to inject their venom into a human. This is why there are so few reports of fatalities.

The yellow-bellied sea snake is the fourth most venomous snake in the entire world. It follows debris that gathers in the ocean – such as logs and seaweed. Fish gather near the seaweed to breed and feed, and the yellow belly hides, pretending to be part of the debris. When attacking prey, they strike once and move away – only going back when sure the fish is dead.

Yellowbelly sea snake.

The yellow belly has no known predators; however, experiments have been done in the laboratory to see what happens when a yellow-belly is eaten. A large fish ate two small yellow bellies; the snakes bit the fish while in its stomach and were able to swim out of the mouth of the dead fish!

The sidewinder gets its name from the way it moves across the desert sands that it inhabits. It moves by throwing its body back and forth in a J-shape, only having two parts of its body touching the ground at any given time. This serves two purposes: giving the snake more traction on the loose sand, and minimizing the body surface that touches the hot sand – preventing the snake from overheating in the hot desert.

Crotalus cerastes also known as the sidewinder or horned rattlesnake.

Sidewinders have raised scales above their eyes that help both to shade their eyes from the sun and prevent sand from getting in their eyes. They look almost like horns above the eyes, giving them the nickname – the horned rattlesnake.

Juvenile sidewinders have a particularly fascinating method of hunting lizards, called caudal luring. They use their tails to either look like a fluttering moth with fast movements, or to resemble a caterpillar with slower movements. This is a behavior that they stop using as they grow bigger and begin preying on larger animals.

There are twelve different species of spitting cobras in the world, all of varying sizes and habitats. If threatened, all spitting cobra species become very aggressive and will posture up, display their hoods, and immediately begin spitting. While their venom is deadly, when it is “spat” out, it does not cause fatalities, assuming that there are no breaks in the skin to allow it to enter the blood stream. It can, however, lead to permanent blindness if the venom gets into the eyes of the victim.

Javan spitting cobra.

Spitting cobras have forward facing holes in the front of their fangs. They use specialized muscles to squeeze the venom glands and force their venom to spray out through the holes. The venom sprays up to two meters (6.6 feet). Spitting is their main defense mechanism; however, they will also bite if spitting hasn’t stopped the approaching threat.

The Atheris hispida is also known as the spiny bush viper. It is notable for its odd, upright scales that look very bristly and rough to the touch, not that you should be touching this Central African snake. A bite can be fatal to humans, as the venom is a deadly neurotoxin.

Atheris hispida.

The coastal taipan is the third most venomous land snake in the world and has large fangs of 1.2cm (half an inch) long. The large fangs mean bites always pierce the skin and are able to inject large amounts of venom into the victim – it is always a fatal dose for humans. If untreated with antivenin, death can occur in as little as thirty minutes.

Coastal taipan.

The inland taipan can change the color of its skin by season, getting lighter in the summer and darker in the winter. This allows it to absorb more light in the colder months and less light in the summer heat, helping the snake to regulate its temperature.

Inland taipan at the Universeum Science Park in Gothenburg, Sweden.

The inland taipan is also called the “Fierce Snake” and not without reason. Its venom is the fiercest, or most powerful, of all known snakes. The inland taipan is the most venomous snake in the world!

They hunt at night, chasing after their prey and cornering it in a burrow, after which the inland taipan delivers a series of quick strikes – up to seven bites in a single attack. The venom acts so quickly that the animal isn’t even able to run away. It dies within seconds, and the inland taipan swallows it on the spot.

Inland taipan at Australia Zoo.

The venom in one bite is strong enough to kill to kill as many as 250,000 mice, 12,000 guinea pigs, or 100 grown men!

Despite their deadly venom, these snakes, like most snakes, are shy and try to keep away from humans. This makes the incidence of snakebites from inland taipans very low.