Snakes are some of the most venomous animals in the world.
Venomous snakes evolved about 28 million years ago to release toxins through their fangs.
There are over 3,400 snake species, but it is estimated that only 600 are venomous. Only about 15% of all snake species in the world are venomous.
Different species will use their venom for different reasons. Some for self-defense and others for prey. But, there are some species that pack a very lethal bite!
Keep on reading to discover some of the world’s deadliest and most venomous snakes…
Venomous snakes are amongst the most feared animals in the world.
However, a lot is misunderstood about snakes, their behaviors and their venom.
Snakes evolved about 28 million years ago to developed venom. Venom is a specialized saliva that contains various types of toxins with different purposes. Some of the most common toxins found in snake venom include: hemotoxins, neurotoxins, and myotoxins:
- Hemotoxins destroy blood cells, tissue and prevent the blood from clotting.
- Neurotoxins cause severe damage to nervous system pathways and affect nerve cell functions.
- Myotoxins cause severe muscle paralysis as well as muscle necrosis (i.e. cell death).
Most snakes use venom to incapacitate their prey before eating them. Good examples of this include the Inland Taipan that developed venom specifically for their prey. Some species like rattlesnakes inject their prey with venom to help with digestion. This allows their stomach enzymes to digest the prey before it rots and becomes putrefied.
Recent studies have shown that most snakes use venom to attack and not for self-defense.
It is thought this might be because of the delayed onset of pain caused by snake venom. There are few exceptions of course, such as the Spitting Cobras that eject venom into their threat’s eyes.
Frogs and lizards are more likely to use venom as a self-defense mechanism.
Most Venomous Snakes Ranked
There are many disputes regarding which snakes are the most venomous and which are the deadliest snakes.
The most venomous snakes are typically ranked using an LD50 scale. LD means “Lethal Dose”. The LD50 value is the venom’s dosage that is required in order to kill half the population of a species it is tested on. Normally the venom is tested on mice.
However, just because a snake is the most venomous, does not mean it is the deadliest.
Other factors can be taken into account. How much venom is injected in one bite? How many times will the snake bite? Behavior also plays a large role. Some species have very shy temperaments and live far away from human habitation. Others are very aggressive, territorial and live near human settlement.
This ranked list is determined by the factors above and a snake’s LD50 value:
|Rank||Common Name||Range||LD50 value||Fatalities (per year)|
|1||Inland Taipan||Central east Australia||<0.001 mg/kg||Less than 1|
|2||Eastern Brown Snake||Eastern Australia and New Guinea||0.05 mg/kg||1 to 4|
|3||Dubois’s Sea Snake||Australia and Oceania||0.04 mg/kg||Less than 1|
|4||Blue Krait||Indian subcontinent||0.09 mg/kg||~10,000|
|5||Coastal Taipan||Australia||0.013 mg/kg||Less than 1|
|6||Western Tiger Snake||Mainland Australia (except Northern Territory)||0.21 mg/kg||Less than 1|
|7||Yellow-bellied Sea Snake||Tropical region of Indian and Pacific Oceans||0.07 mg/kg||None recorded|
|8||Boomslang||Sub-Saharan Africa||0.10 mg/kg||Less than 1|
|9||Saw-Scaled Viper||Middle East, Central Asia, and Indian subcontinent||0.24 mg/kg||~25,000|
|10||Indian Cobra||Indian subcontinent||0.28 mg/kg||~7,000|
|11||Russell’s Viper||Indian subcontinent||0.133 mg/kg||~18,000|
|12||Belcher’s Sea Snake||Indian Ocean to east coast of Australia||0.24 mg/kg||Possibly 1 recorded|
|13||Black-banded Sea Krait||Western Pacific Ocean||0.11 mg/kg||None recorded|
1. Inland Taipan
The Inland Taipan has been crowned the “Most Venomous Snake” by many studies. Australia’s very own inland taipan has enough venom in one bite that could kill 100 men.
Not only are these snakes venomous, but their venom is specifically designed for incapacitating warm-blooded mammals. These snakes typically hunt rodents and other small mammals and have venom that is more lethal to mammals.
The Inland Taipan’s venom is extremely strong and has an impressive LD50 score of less than 0.001 milligrams per kilogram.
Their venom is a mixture of numerous toxins including neurotoxins, hemotoxins, myotoxins, and nephrotoxins. The effects of being bit by one of these snakes include immediate death of all tissue (i.e. necrosis) at the bite site.
Victims will also experience respiratory paralysis and acute kidney failure. For victims who are not immediately treated after a taipan bite, the lethality chance is above 80%.
Besides having the most venomous bite in the world, these snakes have a few other skills in their arsenal. Inland Taipans are extremely agile and are known for accurate repeated bites. Because of this, it is also one of the deadliest snakes in the world.
Luckily these snakes are found in very remote regions that are not near largely populated areas. They are also very shy and would rather escape from humans than bite them.
2. Eastern Brown Snake
The eastern brown snake is the second most venomous snake in the world.
A bite from an eastern brown snake has many effects that can be life-threatening. Internal bleeding, acute kidney disease and seizures are all common. Other less common symptoms of their venom include brain hemorrhaging, muscle paralysis, and cardiac arrest.
Eastern brown snakes are found throughout the eastern and central parts of Australia. It is fairly common throughout its range in different ecosystems including forests, savannas, wetlands, and urban areas.
The eastern brown snake is extremely adaptable to different ecosystems and has done surprisingly well as humans continuously destroy their habitat. These snakes are well-suited for life in rural and suburban areas as well.
Because of this, encounters between brown snakes and humans have become more common.
In the past four years, there have been four fatalities caused by brown snakes. These fatalities have occurred as a result of homeowners attempting to remove snakes without properly identifying them.
Eastern brown snakes typically will remain non-aggressive, unless they are provoked. It is important to remain a safe distance away from any snake you suspect is venomous.
3. Dubois’s Sea Snake
The Dubois’s sea snake is arguably the most venomous aquatic snake in the world.
Dubois’s sea snakes have extremely lethal venom that can cause severe paralysis, muscle damage, acute kidney failure, and if left untreated death. Unlike other sea snakes on this list, this species is known for being more irritable and will attack if provoked.
These snakes are often victims of bycatch and accidentally come into contact with local Australian fishermen through nets.
It is not uncommon for fishermen to come into contact with these snakes. Fortunately, there have been no officially reported deaths caused by the Dubois’s sea snake. However, there are few anecdotal accounts from local Australian fishermen.
The Dubois’s sea snake is very common throughout the Indian Ocean and seas around Australia and Papua New Guinea. They are generally small for sea snakes only reach between two and five feet in length.
Their colors range from brown to white and blue, while patterns can range from banded to checkered. These snakes are very distinct in color based on the region they are found in.
4. Blue Krait
The blue krait is the most venomous snake of India’s “Big Four”. It is also the most venomous terrestrial snake in all of Asia. The effect of blue krait’s venom is unique compared to other snakes.
Most snake venom results in death as a result of heart or organ failure. Blue kraits’ venom causes respiratory paralysis and suffocation. For untreated patients, the chance of death is between 70 and 80%.
Blue kraits are mainly nocturnal which means that most encounters with people occur during the night.
Even though most interactions occur at night, these snakes still account for a large number of deaths throughout the Indian subcontinent. In Bangladesh alone, these kraits are responsible for 50% of all snakebite deaths.
These snakes are found in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and as far south as Bengal. They are typically found near water sources and have been known to hide out in houses.
Blue kraits are also known by many other names including the Malayan krait and the common krait.
5. Coastal Taipan
Coastal Taipans are close relatives of the most venomous snake in the world, the Inland Taipan. This species is found on the northern coast of Australia and in the southern parts of Papua New Guinea.
These Taipans are not as venomous as their inland relatives, but still pack a very powerful venom.
Their venom contains a combination of neurotoxins and coagulants.
The LD50 of this snake’s venom is approximately 0.013 milligrams per kilogram. In one bite, these snakes inject about 60 milligrams of venom. That means that with one bite, these snakes can kill as many as 100,000 mice.
Even though these snakes have one of the most lethal bites in the animal kingdom, they are only responsible for three recorded human deaths since 1981. The low death rate is mostly due to their relatively shy nature. Coastal taipans are more likely to stay hidden and away from danger than directly facing a potential threat.
Most Coastal Taipans grow to about seven feet in length and are usually reddish-brown in color.
However, this species is well-known for changing color based on the season. During the winter, they become much darker and in the summer they will develop lighter colors. This helps them to blend in with the leafage and other materials scattered around the coastal woodlands that they live in.
6. Western Tiger Snake
The western tiger snake is an Australian snake species that is closely related to Asia’s cobras.
Tiger snakes typically live around water in coastal areas, but they have also been recorded in woodland creeks. They are carnivorous and mainly feed on fish, frogs, and small birds and mammals.
These snakes are called tiger snakes because of their distinct black and yellow bands. However, there are unbanded individuals. Most western tiger snakes are relatively big and can reach six or seven feet in length.
Western tiger snakes have a highly potent venom that contains a concoction of neurotoxins, myotoxins, and coagulants. Their highly venomous bite is very lethal to humans. If left untreated about 50% of bites result in death.
Even though these snakes are highly venomous, there are very few recorded deaths. This is due to local laws that prohibit harassing or killing tiger snakes and also the availability of antivenom.
7. Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake
Yellow-bellied sea snakes are brightly colored venomous snakes. They are typically yellow with a solid black line running down their back. However, there are some morphs that are completely yellow.
This species is amongst the most lethal of the highly venomous subfamily Hydrophiinae.
Yellow-Bellied sea snakes have a very potent venom that contains many neurotoxins and isotoxins. They evolved to have lethal venom to subdue prey for eating. For this reason, they have rapid-acting toxins that can debilitate or kill prey within minutes.
Unfortunately, this means that bite victims have very little time to act. In most cases, a victim of a Yellow-bellied sea snake bite only has 10 minutes to receive antivenom. After 10 minutes it becomes fatal.
The yellow-bellied sea snake is one of the most widely distributed sea snakes in the world.
They can be found throughout most of the Indian Ocean coast, the pacific islands around Australia, and North and Central America. This species has also been recorded in the coastal regions around the Hawaiian islands.
Boomslangs are the only species on this list of venomous snakes that do not come from Asia or Australia! Instead, this snake comes from the continent of Africa.
These snakes come in a variety of colors ranging from light green to black, typically being somewhere in between. They are also arboreal and can often be seen gliding between branches throughout the day.
Boomslangs are unique because they are one of the few venomous snakes in the Colubridae family. Some other species in this family are well-known pet snakes such as corn snakes, rat snakes, and garter snakes.
These snakes usually eat chameleons and small mammals. However, they have been seen eating bird eggs and tree frogs.
Boomslangs have a very lethal venom with an LD50 of 0.10 milligrams per kilogram. However, their venom is unique because it contains hemotoxins that target the blood clotting process. These hemotoxins are proteins that target different aspects of the clotting process.
Snake bites from a Boomslang result in internal bleeding and hemorrhaging in the brain.
Even though their bites are lethal, they are very reluctant to attack. Boomslang snakebites in humans are relatively uncommon.
9. Saw-Scaled Viper
The saw-scaled viper is considered to be the deadliest venomous snake in the world.
Each year Saw-Scaled Vipers kill around ~25,000 humans throughout the Indian subcontinent. They are responsible for more human deaths than any other snake in the world.
Compared to most venomous snakes, its venom is very weak. However, Saw-Scaled Vipers kill so many people due to their aggressive nature and venom dose. They inject around 12 mg of venom in each bite, it is believed that 5 mg is enough to kill an adult human.
Saw-Scaled Vipers are closely related to rattlesnakes, moccasins, and puff adders. All of these snakes are known for their aggressive nature and highly potent venom.
Unlike some of the other viper species, the saw-scaled viper has venom that is only lethal in 10% of untreated victims. However, they are so aggressive that the frequency at which they bite humans increases the rate of fatalities.
Saw-Scaled Vipers mainly eat rodents such as rats. Because of this, these snakes are commonly found in urban cities, rural villages, and farmlands. Their proximity to humans, along with their aggressive behavior, leads to thousands of bites every year.
10. Indian Cobra
The Indian Cobra is one of the most famous snakes from the Indian subcontinent. These snakes can be found all through India, except at elevations above 2,000 meters.
Indian Cobras have a very strong influence on Indian culture and are a part of many different folktales. One of the most common interactions between these cobras and people is through snake charming.
Cobras are most well-known for the large hood that is used to intimidate potential threats. Even though all cobra species can be identified by a hood and are venomous, there is a certain way to identify an Indian Cobra. All Indian Cobras have a hood mark on the rear side that is similar to eyeglasses.
Indian Cobras are commonly found near farmlands and cities because they eat rats. These snakes are highly regarded for their assistance in controlling pest populations. However, they also account for 12% of all snakebite deaths in India.
Antivenom does exist to treat cobra bites effectively. But, since most bites occur in impoverished regions, victims are unable to receive medication in time and often face amputation, severe illness, and death.
11. Russell’s Viper
The Russell’s viper is famous for being one of India’s “Big Four” snakes.
These four snakes are most well-known for being the cause of 95% of all snakebite fatalities in India. This is estimated to be between 58,000 to 62,000 deaths per year.
The venom of a Russell’s Viper has an LD50 level of approximately 0.133 milligrams per kilogram. This means that it would take approximately 40 to 70 mg of venom to be considered fatal to humans. However, these snakes can release 250 mg of venom in a single bite.
The Russell’s viper is commonly found throughout India in heavily populated areas. This makes it a high risk for many Indians. Unfortunately, 18,000 people die each year in India from their bite.
Russell’s vipers are mainly nocturnal and most encounters with humans happen at night. Even though they are generally slow-moving, they can very quickly become agitated and will strike without warning. Most people are attacked before they even notice the snake.
Most of these vipers have very vibrant colors and blend into desert environments and crevices. They are typically brown or red with dark splotches going down the length of their back.
12. Belcher’s Sea Snake
Belcher’s sea snakes were once thought to be the most venomous sea snakes in the world. However, this was largely in part to a misconception caused by an error in a published book on snakes.
To this day, this species is commonly confused with the current holder of the “most venomous sea snake,” which is the Dubios’s Sea Snake.
Belcher’s sea snake bites are extremely rare because of their docile nature, even though they have extremely lethal venom. Another reason why deaths from these snakes are rare is that not all bites result in envenomation. Only 1 in every 4 bites from a Belcher’s Sea Snakes results in venom being injected into the victim.
The Belcher’s sea snake is one of the very few sea serpents that have a recorded fatality.
In 2018, a 23-year-old man working in Australia was bitten by one that had become entrapped in a fishing net. It was the first recorded fatality from a sea snake in Australia.
13. Black-Banded Sea Krait
The black-banded sea krait is a reef snake that is commonly found throughout the coastal regions of the western Pacific Ocean. These snakes live either in intertidal zones or reefs for most of their lives. However, they will journey onshore to mate and lay their eggs.
Black-Banded Sea Kraits produces a lethal venom that has an LD50 of approximately 0.11 mg/kg.
However, there have been no known fatalities caused by these snakes. This is despite their venom being vastly more potent than most cobra species.
These snakes are relatively non-aggressive and do not bite humans unless extremely provoked. This is mostly due to their docile nature and infrequent encounters with humans.
Black-Banded Sea Kraits can grow five to six feet and are covered entirely in black bands. Surprisingly, due to their thick body, they are relatively slow underwater. Instead of chasing prey, they work alongside other ocean predators, such as Bluefin Trevally, to trap prey in the reefs.
Which of these deadly snakes were you most surprised by? Let us know in the comments!