East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Guest Post – The World’s Most Lethal Snakes (1)


This is an important first, for Karavansara.
This is the first guest post on these pages.

From the Italian-language blog OTIUM, guest blogger Ferruccio Gianola will entertain and inform us about the ten most lethal snakes in the world.
A subject that fits nicely (?) the theme of Karavansara – as a collection of informations about far away lands, and as a resource for adventure writers and readers.

Due to the length of the article, this top ten will be published in two parts.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, Ferruccio Gianola…

Hemingway wrote about bulls and bullfights, when he was not writing about big game hunting. In my humble way, I write about snakes.
The following top ten focuses on the most lethal snakes in the world. Mind you – these are not the most poisonous venomous; those will come in another article in a while.

These are simply the snakes that make the highest number of victims in the world.

Of the 3.000 species of snake known to man, only the 15% are considered dangerous to humans, and as we lack an international regulation, in many parts of the world deaths due to snake bite are often not registered as such.
Hence, no accurate study was ever completed determining the frequency of snake bites and bite-related deaths at a global level. Anyway, according to some estimates, we can assume something like 5,4 million persons bitten per year, with 2,5 millions poisonings, and roughly 125.000 dead.

And here’s the ten major killers:

10 – Naja nivea:

a.k.a South-African Cobra or Cape Cobra – Elapid of the bungarinid sub-family – this is considered one of the most poisonous venomous snakes in Austral Africa, due to its strong poison venom and its habit of hanging around houses. The skin color of this snake is very pale. Normally 1.2 meters in legth, it can reach 1.8 meters. Highly toxic, its poison venom is composed by postsinaptic neurotoxics and cardiotoxics, that hit the respiratory system, the nervous system and the heart. The death-to-untreated-bite rate is unknown, but considered very high. Causes a few dozens deaths per year.

9 – Gloydius blomhoffii:

a.k.a. Mamushi – Viperid of the crotaline subfamily – widespread in Japan, China and Korea, with thousands of bite victims each year. A rather small reptile, rarely over the half-meter in length. The poison venom acts primarily as a cytotoxic, and bite victims normally require one week of hospitalization and treatments. The worst bites require intensive therapy, but roughly fifty people die each year because of the poison’s venom’s effects.

8 – Bothrops asper:

a.k.a Tercio Pelo – Viperid of the crotaline subfamily – is the main responsible of snakebite deaths in Mexico and Central America, with many dozens of victims yearly. This is a big snake, it length between 1.40 and 1.80 meters . Bite symptoms are those classic with viperidae: pain, local swelling, bruises around the bite-marks, drowsyness, fever, headache, bleeding from nose and gums, gastro-intestinal bleeding, hypotension, nausea, vomit, altered states of conscience. Untreated bites can cause necrosys and require sometimes amputation.

7 – Bothrops atrox:

a.k.a. Fer-de-lance – Viperid of the crotaline subfamily – usually measuring between eighty centimeters and 1.3 meters. The most lethal South American snake, causing a few hundred deaths between Brazil, Guyana, Venezuela, Colombia, Perù and Paraguay. Its poison venom is mainly an hemotoxic, acting on blood coagulation, with associated cytotoxic effects.

6 – Dendroaspis polylepis:

a.k.a Black Mamba – Elapid of the bungarinid subfamily – the name coming from the inside of the snake’s mouth, which is completely black, this is one of the most poisonous venomous and dangerous African snakes, killing hundreds of people each year. It lives chiefly in savanas, where it can move at a speed of 20 kms/h. It can reach four meters in length. The Black Mamba poison venom is composed chiefly of neurotoxines acting on the nervous system, causing the paralysis of vital organs, death occurring in 20 minutes, or in a few minutes in some cases.
The Black Mamba is commonly known as Seven Steps for the extreme speed of its poison venom, which would allow the victim no more than seven steps after the bite and before death (but this is a legend).

And here ends Part One.
Part Two is forthcoming – stay tuned!

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

12 thoughts on “Guest Post – The World’s Most Lethal Snakes (1)

  1. This is a very good choice for the frist guest post. I’m waiting for part two


  2. thanks Davide, I am very happy


  3. None of these snakes are poisonous.


  4. VENOM, not poison! Please do more research and use the proper terminology when trying to educate others. I do appreciate your effort, though.


  5. I take full responsibility for the error, as I translated the article.
    It will be corrected immediately.
    Thanks for the pointer – I fell victim to the fact that in the original language, venomous and poisonous are synonims.

    I will strive to do better next time.
    Again thank you for the clarification


  6. Pingback: Guest Post – The World’s Most Lethal Snakes (2) « Karavansara

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