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Top 5 Most Venomous Snakes

A list of the top five most venomous snakes in the world according to the average amount for a lethal dosage of their venom in mice. Venomous snakes are usually adapted to hunting mice, so this is not a list of the most dangerous snakes. Gives the name and LD50 dosage of all the snakes.

Measuring how lethal a snake is to humans is a difficult task. The most commonly used data for measuring how venomous a snake is, is the LD50 value (the median lethal dosage) of that snake's venom. Unfortunately, the LD50 of snake venom is usually tested on mice, which most snakes have adapted to hunt as prey. The physiological differences between humans and snakes means that what might be a lethal dose for a mouse might barely harm a human. Regardless, it remains the most accurate measurement of the lethality of snake venom, and for the purposes of this list of the world's most venomous snakes it is what will be taken into account. A lower number means a more lethal venom.

The measurement of venom lethality does not necessarily make a snake dangerous. A snake could have a potent venom, but be docile enough that it is of no threat to humans.

Point of Interest: An animal is considered "venomous" when it actively injects a victim with venom (or rather, the venom is delivered by a specialised mechanism which usually happens to be injection), where as something is considered poisonous when the toxin is administered by physical contact or ingestion. So a snake or spider would venomous, while a frog or plant would be considered poisonous.

5. Peninsula Tiger Snake - LD50: 0.131 mg/kg

The Peninsula Tiger Snake, located in Australia, is the first on this list of venomous snakes. Tiger snakes can grow to just over 1 metre in length, and are typically coloured jet black with a dark grey or black underbelly (although some variants have been known to have a red belly). A tiger snake's venom is composed of a powerful neurotoxin, along with coagulants and myotoxins. Symptoms of a tiger snake's venomous bite include tingling, numbness followed by a rapidly developing difficulty in breathing and eventual paralysis. The untreated mortality rate for the Peninsula Tiger Snake is approximately 40-60%. Tiger snakes are found in Australia (as are many of the snakes on this list. Don't go to Australia).

4. The Many Banded Krait - LD50: 0.108 mg/kg

Alternatively known as the Taiwanese Krait, the Many-banded krait is a venomous snake found in mainland China and Taiwan. It ranges from 1 to 1.5 metres in length with a very obvious black and white banding across its body. The black stripes are typically much larger than the white stripes. The Krait is nocturnal, hiding in dark places during the daytime and also hibernating from November until April. The Krait is not considered terribly dangerous to humans due to its timid nature, although it will react violently if disturbed during its activity at night time.

3. Coastal Taipan - LD50: 0.106 mg/kg

The Coastal Taipan is native to Australia (told you), as well as New Guinea. They also hold the record of being the largest land snake in Australia, at over 2 metres in length on average. At their maximum length, they are over even 3 metres in length. They are reddish brown in colour, and share many morphological similarities with the infamous Black Mamba.  The Coastal Taipan is usually most active in the early morning, though during warm climate periods it can also awaken and start hunting during the night (like most snakes, its level of activity is dependant on heat). Fortunately for us, the Coastal taipan is a non confrontational snake, and will rather escape unharmed from an encounter with humans than actively attack them. However, when cornered it will fight back viciously, striking repeatedly in rapid succession to ensure their escape. When it does strike, the Taipan is extremely dangerous. Each strike injects a large amount of highly toxic venom into the victim's blood stream. Even worse, unlike most snakes the Taipan can inject a similarly large dosage in its follow up strikes without drying out its venom stores. Its venom is a highly potent neurotoxin which can cause death in 90 minutes, although it can also kill as quickly as half an hour. Untreated bites have a near 100% mortality rate. The Coastal Taipan actually has the highest mortality rate for untreated bites after the Black Mamba.

2. The Eastern Brown Snake - LD50: 0.036 mg/kg

Here we are, the second most venomous land snake as categories by its LD50 value. The Eastern Brown Snake is native to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and (of course) Australia. Eastern Brown Snakes usually have a uniform brown colour, but their patterns can differ greatly between snakes. The species average about a metre and a half in length. Eastern Brown Snakes are most active during the day, and is notoriously aggressive as well as very fast. They are highly aggressive when provoked, and attack with a mixture of neurotoxins and coagulants. Fortunately, the untreated mortality rate is quite low at only 10-20% due to the species only attacking humans in defence. On the defensive, Eastern Brown Snakes attack with non-venomous bites first which is usually enough to drive away humans. When they bite with actual venom however, the venom can be fatal if not treated, causing convulsions, paralysis and cardiac arrest.

1. Inland Taipan - LD50: 0.025 mg/kg

The most venomous land snake in the world is the Inland Taipan which is native to Australia (I am never going to Australia, ever). Also known as the Fierce Snake, the Inland Taipan is actually extremely timid, preferring to escape from trouble rather than fight back or attack. It usually has a dark colouration, and reaches lengths of 2.5 metres (although its average length is only 1.8 metres, so the Eastern Brown Snake is still the largest on average). The Inland Taipan has a highly lethal, neurotoxin based venom which is extremely dangerous to humans. Fortunately the Taipan only injects its victims with low doses, enough to kill a mouse very quickly but barely lethal to humans. This is due to the Taipan's timid nature, it uses its venom for feeding and hunting but not for defence. All recorded bites since 2003 have been specialists bitten while handling the snakes, and non of them have resulted in deaths. Somewhat anticlimactic given the Inland Taipan's title as the most venomous land snake in the world.

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Comments (1)

Great info on poisonous snakes.