DEADLY CREATURES YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT
This list of scary deadly things will amaze you
The Caspian cobra is found in central Asia. This snake is known for being very aggressive and bad-tempered. They tend to avoid humans, but will become aggressive towards them if they feel threatened. When feeling threatened it will spread its hood, hiss, and sway side-to-side, then finally strike its target multiple times. Once bitten a person may experience drowsiness, weakness, paralysis of the limbs. If untreated, the bite can result in death from respiratory failure
The Monocled Cobra is widespread across south and southeast Asia. The monocled cobra was given its name due to its O-shaped, or monocellate hood pattern. These cobras prefer habitats with water such as paddy fields or swamps. However, they can adapt easily and can also be found in grasslands and forests. This cobra causes the most fatalities from snake venom poisoning in Thailand. In severe cases of envenomation death can occur within 60 minutes.
The Jameson’s Green Mamba is very similar to its counterparts, the Eastern and Western Green Mamba. The Jameson’s Green Mamba can grow up to 8 feet and 8 inches (2.64 meters) long, with a dull green color across the back that blends into a pale green. It’s scales are normally edged with black. They inhabit parts of Africa and prefer landscapes such as primary and secondary rainforests, woodland, and forest-savanna. However, they are highly adaptable and can be found many times in urban areas. Their venom is highly neurotoxic and death can occur between 30-120 minutes.
The Rhinoceros viper is very similar to the Gaboon Viper, but has a less dangerous bite. They are slow moving, but are capable of striking quickly and it all directions, without warning. If they feel threatened, they will hiss. Its hiss is said to be the loudest out of all the African snakes, and it sounds more like a shriek. Their venom contains a neurotoxin and hemotoxin which attacks the circulatory system of its victims.
The Chinese Cobra is one of the most venomous members of the cobra family. It is mainly found in mainland China and Taiwan, and has caused the most snakebites in those areas. The Chinese Cobra is always aware of its surroundings and is seldom cornered. However, if it feels threatened it will raise its forebody and spread its hood, ready to strike. Local symptoms of a bite include pain, insensibility and necrosis. Necrosis, even after treatment, may persist for many years within the victim.
If untreated, a Coastal Taipan bite is 100% fatal. You do not need to worry, unless you are in the northern and eastern regions of Australia or in New Guinea. Coastal Taipans are the longest venomous snake in Australia and can grow up to 6.6 feet (2 meters) long. The Coastal Taipan’s venom consists of a highly potent neurotoxin that affects the nervous system and the blood’s ability to clot. Death can occur in as little as 30 minutes after a bite.
The red-bellied black snake is found in parts of eastern Australia. It inhabits woodlands, forests and swamplands. It is also common to find them in urban areas. The snake is glossy black on the dorsal surface and red, crimson or pink in color on the lower sides and belly. This snake is normally not aggressive. However, if it feels threatened, it will recoil into a striking stance. Bites from these snakes are not normally fatal, but you should still seek medical attention.
The Mali cobra is a species of venomous spitting cobra that is found in Western Africa. The cobra ranges from Senegal to Cameroon, with reports to also be found from Gambia, Burkina Faso, southern Mali, and a few other countries. It inhabits both tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands. Its venom contains postsynaptic neurotoxins, cardiotoxins, and cytotoxic activity. The Mali cobra is responsible for the most snake bites in Senegal.
Sea Snake’s venom is more toxic than its land-dwelling counterparts. However, sea snakes will only attack when provoked. However, the danger of a sea snake should not be underestimated. Most people that have been bitten work on trawlers, in the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific, as snakes are sometimes hauled in with the catch. Only a small proportion of bites have been fatal. Symptoms, such as muscles aches, spasms will most likely occur 30 minutes after the bite. If not treated one can suffer from more severe symptoms such as blurred vision and respiratory paralysis.
The Egyptian Cobra is one of the largest cobra species in Africa. It has many similar physical traits to other cobras, like a hood. However, what makes it distinct is its coloring and often a tear-drop mark near the eye. This cobra has very large fangs which allows it to deliver large quantities of venom. A bite should be considered a medical emergency as its venom affects the nervous system which eventually leads to respiratory failure
The King Brown Snake is the second longest species of venomous snakes in Australia. They can grow up to 9.8 feet (3 meters) long. Their venom is relatively weak compared to other species. However, what they lack in quality, they make up for in quantity. These snakes will deliver large amounts of venom when they bite. The average snakes deliver 180 milligrams during a bite. The king brown delivers close to 600 milligrams. The untreated mortality rate is 30-40%.
The dugite is a venomous snake found in western Australia. Dugites are normally shy and will slither away upon seen a human. However, like many other snakes will attack if they feel cornered. Dugites are considered highly dangerous due to their very potent venom that causes both coagulopathic and procoagulant effects. Although they rarely bite humans, when they do, it is normally during when they are most active in their mating season (October and November)
The Gaboon viper lives in the rainforests and savannas of sub-Saharan Africa. It is the worlds heaviest viperid and has the longest fangs of 5 centimeters (2 inches). It is normally slow moving and placid, and they are known for lying in wait for hours for their prey to pass by. Due to their docile nature, bites normally only occur when they are stepped on. However, it should be considered a medical emergency when a bite does occur.
Keep your distance from this snake, as the black-necked spitting cobra can eject venom from its fangs over 7 meters (23 feet) with perfect accuracy. They are mainly found in just sub-Saharan Africa and can grow up to 2.2 meters (7.2 feet) long. Bites can lead to blisters, inflammation and permanent blindness if venom makes contact with the eyes.
The Sharp-nosed pit viper is found in southeast Asia. Its highly potent venom contains hemotoxin that is very likely to lead to hemorrhaging. Its nickname is the “hundred pacer.” It has been believed that victims will only be able to walk 100 steps before dying. However, there is an antivenin made in Taiwan. Symptoms from a bite include swelling, blistering, necrosis, and ulceration
The Cape Cobra is considered one of the most dangerous snakes in Africa due to its highly potent venom and its common occurrences around houses. The mortality rate for bites from a cape cobra are unknown, but are believed to be high. If a victim does not receive the antivenin it is likely he or she will die from respiratory failure.
The longest snakes in the western hemisphere are the South American Bushmasters. In addition, they are the longest pit-viper in the world. They inhabit parts of South America and tend to dwell in equatorial forests. The primarily feed on mice and rats, but will attack when provoked. Unfortunately, not much is known about their venom as they are highly susceptible from stress. Therefore, they die quickly when in captivity.
The jararaca is a species of pit-viper found in souther Brazil, Paraguay, and northern Argentina. The snake prefers to live in open areas, such as farmland. Its venom is considered very toxic and causes symptoms such as bruising and blistering of the affected limb and spontaneous systemic bleeding of the gums and into the skin. However, one good thing was derived from the venom, the ACE inhibitor, which is used to treat hypertension and some types of congestive heart failure.
The forest cobra is native to Africa, mainly dwelling in the central and western parts of the continent. Its preferred habitat in the lowland forest and moist savannah. However, it can be found in drier climates and is a very good swimmer. Although bites to humans are rare, they are very dangerous when they occur. This snake injects a large amount of venom into its victims. Death can occur 30-120 minutes after being bitten.
The western green mamba, as you would suspect, resides in west Africa. However, bites to people from this snake are very uncommon. However, when people are bitten the mortality rate is extremely high. Once bitten there is a rapid progression of life-threatening symptoms including suffocation resulting from paralysis of the respiratory muscles. Death has been also been reported to occur within 30 minutes of the bite.
The eastern green mamba resides in East Africa and is normally found dwelling in trees. This highly venomous snake can grown up to 2 meters (6.6 feet) in length. This species has bitten many humans, many of which have resulted in fatalities. There was one case where someone died in as little as 30 minutes after the bite. Other symptoms of the venom include difficulty breathing, convulsions and nausea.
The common death adder is native to Australia. Not only is it one of the most venomous snakes in Australia, but also the whole world. The death adder is a master of camouflage and likes to hide beneath loose leaves in woodlands and grasslands. Its venom contains a very potent neurotoxin which can lead to death within 6 hours after the bite.
The Malayan krait inhabits Thailand and much of Southeast Asia. They tend to shy away from the sun and are very active at night. Their venom is highly poisonous and death can result as soon as 12-24 hours after bite. Sadly, even after treatment, 50% of its victims will succumb to effects of the poison, dying usually from respiration failure.
Also known as the Taiwanese or Chinese Krait, the many-banded krait is a highly venomous snake found in southern China and Southeast Asia. In the daytime, this snakes hides in places such as holes and under rocks. However, at night, it hunts and becomes more aggressive. Symptoms will not appear promptly after bite, but may show hours later. If untreated, death is likely 70-100% of the time.
The terciopelo viper is one of the most dangerous snakes in the neotropical rainforest in Central America. They can grow up to 2.5 meters (8 feet) long and have heads that are 10 centimeters (4 inches) wide. They are responsible for the majority of snakebites in Central America. Their venom contains hemotoxins and if not treated with an antivenin can lead to death.
A member of the “big four” species in India, the common krait, is also known as the blue krait. The common krait feeds on other snakes and small mammals. Although reluctant to bite people, if it does, it will clasp and hold for awhile in order to inject a large amount of venom. The venom consists of mostly powerful neurotoxins leading to muscle paralysis.
Russell’s viper is found in the Indian subcontinent and southeast Asia. Like the Indian Cobra it is considered on of the “big four” species. Russell’s viper can grow up to 166 centimeters (5.5 feet) in length. The snake is often times found in high urbanized areas due to the attraction of rodents. Therefore, those working in fields outside of cities are at a high risk of being bitten.
Made popular by snake charmers, the Indian cobra is found all over the Indian subcontinent. It is a member of the “big four” species, the 4 species that inflict the most snakebites on humans in India. However, as it’s admired in Indian culture, it is protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act. Its venom mainly consists of neuro and cardiotoxins. This means a bite can lead to paralysis of the muscles or even cardiac arrest. Symptoms can show anywhere between 15 minutes to 2 hours after the bite.
The puff adder is found in African savannah and grasslands, and is the most commonly found snake on the continent. Due to its commonality, it is responsible for causing the most snakebite fatalities in Africa. If they feel threatened or disturbed, they will adopt a tight coiled posture and the fore part of their body will form an “S” shape. They are very aggressive and strike very fast.
If you see a Philippine Cobra, you better run away. These cobras are highly venomous and are capable of accurately spitting their venom at a target up to 3 meters (9.8 feet) away. The Philippine cobra is normally found in forested areas, along open fields. They are also fond of water, and therefore, can be found many times close to ponds and rivers. Small rodents are the preferred prey of their choice
The western diamondback rattlesnake inhabits the southwestern area of the United States. It has been reported that it is most likely responsible for the majority of snakebite fatalities in northern Mexico and the largest number of snakebites in the U.S. The western diamondback rattlesnake has very large venom glands and special fangs so it can deliver a large amount of venom to its victims. However, as it normally preys on small mammals, it will only bite a human if provoked.
According to National Geographic “The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is the largest venomous snake in North America. Some reach 8 feet (2.4 meters) in length and weigh up to 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms).” Despite what people think the eastern diamondback rattlesnake will not attack humans unless it feels threatened. Bites normally happen when a person is taunting or trying to capture the snake. The last warning before a bite is when the snake violently shakes its tail. Bites can result in red blood cells deterioration, tissue damage, and if left untreated, death.
The common lacehead, also known as the bothrops atrox, inhabits the tropical lowlands of nothern South America. The species of pit-viper is easily agitated and is generally nocturnal. However, when necessary it may forage through the day, climbing trees and even swimming. It is often times found in coffee and banana plantations searching for rodents. Therefore, due to their camouflage, workers do not see the snakes and are often bitten. The venom is very lethal and fast acting. Even when received treatment, almost all cases lead to temporary of sometimes permanent memory loss.
The eastern brown snake is mainly found along the east coast of Australia. The snake is considered to be the second-most venomous terrestrial snake. Its venom has both neurotoxins and blood coagulants. A bite from the eastern brown snake can cause dizziness, renal failure, paralysis and cardiac arrest. Although it normally only eats rodents, like mice, if it feels threatened, it will bite a human. It is responsible for 60% of snake bite deaths in Australia.
The Inland Taipan is the most venomous of all the snakes in the world. What also separates this snakes from many others is its prey. The snake is an expert in hunting mammals, therefore, its venom is adapted to kill warm-blooded species. It normally does not strike unless provoked. Its venom contains neurotoxins which affect the nervous system, hemotoxins which affect the blood, and myotoxins which affect the the muscles. If untreated the venom can be lethal.
Tiger Snakes are found in the southern regions of Australia and some of its coastal islands. It gets in name from its color, as it is often banded like a tiger. A tiger snake’s venom contains many potent toxins. Once bitten a person will experience, at first, localized pain followed by breathing difficulties and finally paralysis. Studies show that untreated bites have a mortality rate of 40-60%.
The sub-Saharan African Boomslang, may look cool. However, do not touch! The average adult boomslang is 100–160 cm (3¼–5¼ feet) in length, with extremely large eyes. The boomslang has a highly potent venom that it can deliver through fangs at the back of its jaw. The snake is able to open its jaws 170° when biting. The venom is mainly made of a hemotoxin which disables the coagulation process in a person’s body. Signs and symptoms of a bite may not show until hours after.
The Black Mamba is found in the savannas and rocky areas in southern and eastern Africa. It can grow up to 14 feet long and can slither up to 12.5 mph, making it the fastest snake in all the planet. Although it only attacks when it is provoked, when it does attack beware. The Black Mamba will bite several times, delivering enough toxins to kill 10 people. There is a antivenin but it must be received within 20 minutes.
The Saw-Scaled Viper kills more people than any other snake each year. Although it only grows to 1-3 feet long, its venomous bite can do lots of damage. Their venom contains hemotoxins and cytotoxins, which leads to multiple bleeding disorders including the possibility of an intracranial hemorrhage. Many of these snakes are found in areas where modern medicine is not found. Therefore, victims sometimes suffer a long, painful death.
The King Cobra is the world’s longest venomous snake. It is predominantly found in India and other parts of Southeast Asia. The King Cobra’s venom’s toxins attack the victim’s central nervous system resulting in pain, vertigo and eventually paralysis. It has been reported that death can occur as short as 30 minutes without the antivenin. The toxin is so deadly, it could even kill a large elephant.
This snake is a freak. It boasts the largest venom glands in the world. It eats king cobras for breakfast. And it has a scorpion’s sting. But that’s not what has scientists excited.
“We have found the wildest snake toxin ever, from the venom of the most outrageous snakes,” Bryan Fry said. “It does something no other snake has ever done.”
The super-powerful venom of the long-glanded blue coral snake could inspire new pain treatments for humans. Photo: Tom Charlton
The Queensland University venomologist is talking about the aptly named long-glanded blue coral snake of south-east Asia – and its unusual venom which takes hold with lightning efficiency.
A reptile with electric blue stripes and neon-red head and tail, it grows up to two metres long. Its venom glands extend to a good 60 centimetres – about one-quarter of its body length.
“On the scale of weird, this one goes to 11,” Dr Fry said. “It’s a freaky snake.”
Described as “the killer of killers” due to its taste for young king cobras, this snake is unique among snakes because, like scorpions, its venom causes its prey to spasm.
A young king cobra is no match for the long-glanded blue coral snake.
Exactly how it does this has been discovered for the first time. The results, published in the journal Toxins, could lead to improved pain management for humans.
“This venom hits a particular type of sodium channel that is important for the treatment of pain in humans,” Dr Fry said.
Dr Bryan Fry holds a king cobra. Young king cobras are often prey to the blue coral snake
With colleagues from Australia, China, Singapore and the US, Dr Fry identified six unusual peptides in the venom of the blue coral snake that can switch on all of its prey’s nerves at once. This immediately immobilises its victim.
So what does a paralysis-inducing venom have to do with improving the treatment and management of pain in humans?
Dr Fry said the research showed that the venom used receptors which were critical to pain in humans. Learning about how these worked could enable improved pain treatment and management.
“It’s also the first vertebrate to do this via sodium channels,” Dr Fry said. “So from a drug development perspective, this is interesting as this animal is evolutionarily-speaking closer to us than a scorpion. Which means it might be more amenable to us.”
While the length of the long-glanded blue coral snake’s venom glands was known, the way the venom worked hadn’t been studied. And given there are related species, there could be as many as 200 variations of the peptides in total.
“It’s a great example of why studying the really weird animals is a great path for biodiscovery and you can’t get any weirder than this snake with the longest venom glands in the world,” Dr Fry said.
“You can’t predict where the next wonder drug came from so you need to protect what you have.”
A girl killed by a brown snake in Far North NSW did not know she had been bitten until several hours later when she was almost comatose, the shire’s deputy mayor says.
The six-year-old girl died on Saturday after being bitten on a property outside Walgett on Friday, prompting emergency services to issue a state-wide warning.
She was taken to Walgett Hospital, where doctors administered anti-venom, about 3pm on Friday.
She was then flown to the Sydney Children’s Hospital in Randwick, where she was placed on life support.
After her condition deteriorated significantly, she was transferred back to Walgett Hospital, where she died.
Walgett Shire deputy mayor Jane Keir, a registered nurse for more than 40 years, said she believed the girl did not see the snake and did not know that she had been bitten until several hours later.
By the time her family took her to Walgett Hospital, it was a “pretty drastic case” and there was probably little that could have been done, she said.
“I believe the family didn’t know she’d been bitten and, by the time they’d realised, she was comatose,” Cr Keir said.
“The little girl could have been on the edge of Sydney and the result would have been the same.”
Cr Keir said she believed the girl trod on the snake while outside on her family’s property, about 25 kilometres from the Walgett township.
She was suffocating by the time she was admitted to hospital and the family wasn’t able to identify what snake bit her because no one saw it, Cr Keir said.
Eastern brown snakes cause more deaths than any other species of snake in Australia and victims often don’t realise they have been bitten.
The initial bite is generally painless and often difficult to detect, the Australian Museum says.
Many bites are caused by people trying to kill or move them or accidentally treading on inactive snakes that are sheltering beneath logs, rocks or man-made covers such as sheets of iron or building material.
The snakes react defensively and viciously if surprised or cornered. They typically have small fangs but extremely potent venom that can cause progressive paralysis and uncontrollable bleeding that can spread to the brain.
NSW Ambulance and NSW Police have issued a reminder to people to be wary of snakes in warmer months.
Tips from NSW Ambulance include:
• If you are bitten by a snake, ensure someone calls triple zero immediately.
• Until help arrives, if the bite is on a limb, apply a pressure immobilisation bandage but not so tight that it will cut off circulation.
• If the bite is not on a limb, apply direct and firm pressure to the bite site with your hands (it is also important the patient is kept still).
• Check items of clothing that have been left outside before wearing them and if you lift something such as a rock or log, lift the object so it’s facing away from you.
Numbers of eastern brown snakes have proliferated over the years due to large-scale land clearing, which provides a ready supply of rodents for the snakes to feed on, the Australian Museum says.
They are most commonly found in scrublands, rural areas that have been heavily modified for agriculture and on the suburban outskirts of large towns and cities across eastern Australia.
Joy Adams, general manager for the northern sector of the Western NSW Local Health District, said the health district and the Walgett Multipurpose Service extended their condolences to the girl’s family.
“We can confirm that appropriate treatment and care was provided, including the administration of anti-venom, and that the patient was transferred to [Randwick] by air ambulance and then returned to Walgett.”
Chief Inspector Tony Mureau, from Walgett police station, said fatal snake bites in the area were extremely rare.
Cr Keir said some staff at Walgett Hospital who treated the girl knew her family.
“It is very, very tough. This would have been devastating for the staff,” she said. “It’s a tragedy and something that would have been very, very difficult to avoid the end result.”
ilha de queimada grande. AKA Snake island. One of the islands in this world you would least like to get stuck at.
Located 30 miles of, of the coast of Sao Paulo, this island harvests a colony of some of the most venomous snakes in the world.
This snake is called the Golden Lancehead. The good news about this highly venomous snake is that you can’t find it anywhere but on this island. The bad news is that there are quiet many of them. Rough estimations have the population at over 400000. Or one snake per every square meter.
It is forbidden for anyone to even set foot on the island. Legend has it that the last person that ignored this warning is a fisherman that was found bleeding to dead in his own boat.
What you are looking at now is an actual picture of the lighthouse that is still on the island as of today. The second big myth about the island is that the family that lived there to work the lighthouse all got driven into the rain forest and killed when snakes eventually invested their home.
The lancehead species is responsible for the most snake related deaths in South America. This particular member of the lancehead family carries a venom that is 5 times as strong as that of your “average” Lancehead.
It may be fun to break the rules from time to time but you have a better chance at staying alive trying to trespass the white houses yard.
Birds wish their government would forbid them to set foot on this island as well, as they are what the Lanceheads feed on mostly. Although being as ruthless as they are, they even feed on their own species from time to time.
The bottom line is if you are planning on going to Brazil for your vacation then you are better of taking a stroll trough the favella’s then you are visiting this island.
It is sad that some people are talking about burning the island down and local farmers have even started fires in the past to potentially turn the island into a banana farm.
These snakes should be left alone tough. This island is a unique piece of nature with a unique habitat. It’s a piece of the Brazilian rain forest that is being harmed enough as it is.
In the lowland tropics of northern Colombia, 60 miles from the Caribbean coast, Cerrejón is an empty, forbidding, seemingly endless horizon of dusty outback, stripped of vegetation and crisscrossed with dirt roads that lead to enormous pits 15 miles in circumference. It is one of the world’s largest coal operations, covering an area larger than Washington, D.C. and employing some 10,000 workers. The multinational corporation that runs the mine, Carbones del Cerrejón Limited, extracted 31.5 million tons of coal last year alone.
Cerrejón also happens to be one of the world’s richest, most important fossil deposits, providing scientists with a unique snapshot of the geological moment when the dinosaurs had just disappeared and a new environment was emerging. “Cerrejón is the best, and probably the only, window on a complete ancient tropical ecosystem anywhere in the world,” said Carlos Jaramillo, a paleontologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. “The plants, the animals, everything. We have it all, and you can’t find it anywhere else in the tropics.”
Fifty-eight million years ago, a few million years after the fall of the dinosaurs, Cerrejón was an immense, swampy jungle where everything was hotter, wetter and bigger than it is today. The trees had wider leaves, indicating greater precipitation—more than 150 inches of rain per year, compared with 80 inches for the Amazon now. Mean temperatures may have hovered in the mid- to high-80s Fahrenheit or higher. Deep water from north-flowing rivers swirled around stands of palm trees, hardwoods, occasional hummocks of earth and decaying vegetation. Mud from the flood plain periodically coated, covered and compressed the dead leaves, branches and animal carcasses in steaming layers of decomposing muck dozens of feet thick.
The river basin held turtles with shells twice the size of manhole covers and crocodile kin—at least three different species—more than a dozen feet long. And there were seven-foot-long lungfish, two to three times the size of their modern Amazon cousins.
The lord of this jungle was a truly spectacular creature—a snake more than 40 feet long and weighing more than a ton. This giant serpent looked something like a modern-day boa constrictor, but behaved more like today’s water-dwelling anaconda. It was a swamp denizen and a fearsome predator, able to eat any animal that caught its eye. The thickest part of its body would be nearly as high as a man’s waist. Scientists call it Titanoboa cerrejonensis.
It was the largest snake ever, and if its astounding size alone wasn’t enough to dazzle the most sunburned fossil hunter, the fact of its existence may have implications for understanding the history of life on earth and possibly even for anticipating the future.
Titanoboa is now the star of “Titanoboa: Monster Snake,” premiering April 1 on the Smithsonian Channel. Research on the snake and its environment continues, and I caught up with the Titanoboa team during the 2011 field season.
Jonathan Bloch, a University of Florida paleontologist, and Jason Head, a paleontologist at the University of Nebraska, were crouched beneath a relentless tropical sun examining a set of Titanoboa remains with a Smithsonian Institution intern named Jorge Moreno-Bernal, who had discovered the fossil a few weeks earlier. All three were slathered with sunblock and carried heavy water bottles. They wore long-sleeved shirts and tramped around in heavy hiking boots on the shadeless moonscape whose ground cover was shaved away years ago by machinery.
“It’s probably an animal in the 30- to 35-foot range,” Bloch said of the new find, but size was not what he was thinking about. What had Bloch’s stomach aflutter on this brilliant Caribbean forenoon was lying in the shale five feet away.
“You just never find a snake skull, and we have one,” Bloch said. Snake skulls are made of several delicate bones that are not very well fused together. “When the animal dies, the skull falls apart,” Bloch explained. “The bones get lost.”
The snake skull embraced by the Cerrejón shale mudstone was a piece of Titanoboa that Bloch, Head and their colleagues had been hoping to find for years. “It offers a whole new set of characteristics,” Bloch said. The skull will enhance researchers’ ability to compare Titanoboa to other snakes and figure out where it sits on the evolutionary tree. It will provide further information about its size and what it ate.
Even better, added Head, gesturing at the skeleton lying at his feet, “our hypothesis is that the skull matches the skeleton. We think it’s one animal.”
Looking around the colossal mine, evidence of an ancient wilderness can be seen everywhere. Every time another feet-thick vein of coal is trucked away, an underlayer of mudstone is left behind, rich in the fossils of exotic leaves and plants and in the bones of fabulous creatures.
“When I find something good, it’s a biological reaction,” said Bloch. “It starts in my stomach.”
Amid an arid forest of cacti, Corythomantis greeningi frogs look pretty harmless. In contrast to the bright cautionary colors of poison dart frogs, these tree frogs sport drab brown and green hues. So when Carlos Jared of Brazil’s Butantan Institute ventured out to collect and study them, he didn’t think they posed much of a threat—until he felt pain in his palm.
Compared to the Brazilian pit viper, C. greeningi is two times as lethal
The two hylid frog species make their homes in desert forests called Caatingi in Brazil
“It took me a long time to realize that the pain had a relationship with the intense and careless collection of these animals hitting the palm of my hands,” recalls Jared. The biologist fell prey to a totally unique defense mechanism: The helmet-headed frogs use spikes along their lips to inject potent chemicals, giving aggressors a mix between a head butt and a toxic smooch. After careful study, Jared and his team found that C. greeningi and a related species of hylid frog, Aparasphenodon brunoi, are the only venomous frogs known to science.
A closeup of a C. greeningi frog’s skin reveals the spikes that line its lips and the front of its head. (Carlos Jared)
“This is very, very cool. Unprecedented would actually be an understatement,” says Bryan Fry, a molecular biologist at the University of Queensland who was not affiliated with the study. But if we already knew frogs could be poisonous, why is this discovery such a big deal? The answer lies in the often-misunderstood difference between poison and venom.
For years, scientists though that the Komodo dragon killed using bacteria that grow in its mouth. In reality, the lizards make their own venom in tiny mouth glands that no one had noticed before.
jab a predator with toxin.
The Iberian ribbed newt widens its ribs to push out spikes Wolverine-style and nick predators with the venomous tips. Though the newts’ toxins are less well studied, researchers think the animals may employ a similar venomous strategy to that of the hylid frogs.
Poisonous organisms take a more passive approach, often lining the skin or other surfaces with toxic chemicals. Poisons can either be brewed from scratch inside the animal or acquired through diet.
Cane toads naturally secrete poison they make in glands behind their ears.
Meanwhile, poison dart frogs generate a highly poisonous alkaloid skin coating they derive from munching on ants. Mama frogs pass the chemical on to tadpoles via egg sacs, so if you take a young poison dart frog out of its natural habitat, it will actually lose toxicity.
Having to digest unsavory foods to survive may be what drove some organisms to evolve poisons, which are primarily used to defend against predators. “If this provided some protection against predation, you can see how this could favor the evolution of systems to actually concentrate the toxins in the skin rather than dispose of them,” explains Kyle Summers, an evolutionary biologist at East Carolina University.
Venoms have popped up on roughly 30 separate occasions across the tree of life, estimates Fry. Most derive from perfectly normal enzymes. For example, spider venom originated from a harmless hormone—the spider version of insulin. One way that can happen is when the gene for a common protein in one organ gets duplicated. The copy mutates and eventually shows up somewhere it’s not supposed to be—like the salivary glands in snakes. When the creature then bites prey or defends itself against a predator, the tweaked protein might be slightly toxic to their opponent. Over time, evolution favors the venomous members of the species and the enzyme evolves in potency.
In the case of the venomous frogs, both species were discovered in the 1800s, but they had hopped under the radar until now because no one had previously taken an in-depth look at their biology.
“Even the most recent book on Brazilian frogs lists them as nontoxic,” says study co-author Edmund Brodie, a biologist at Utah State University. So after Jared’s incident in the field, he wanted to figure out what kind of toxic wizardry might be at play. The researchers carefully collected wild C. greeningi and A. brunoi for lab tests. They found that both frogs secrete a sticky white concoction of compounds that contains some of the same characteristics as venom.
The team then saw that glands supply the toxin to spikes in the frogs’ skin. When the frogs flex their helmet heads up and down or side-to-side, the spikes jab the skin of unsuspecting predators (or scientists) like biological syringes, injecting small doses of the toxin into the bloodstream, Jared and his colleagues report today in Current Biology. Modern hylid frogs have no known predators. However, somewhere down the line it must have given them an advantage over something trying to eat them.
Alternatively, like the male platypus, the frogs could be using their venom to take out mating competition.
Because the toxins get delivered in different ways, venoms tend to be larger compounds that must be injected to break through skin, while poisons are usually smaller chemicals that can be absorbed. So is one type of toxin fundamentally more potent than the other?
Golden poison arrow frogs can kill a human with as little as two micrograms of their alkaloid skin goo.
Meanwhile, a single drop of inland taipan snake venom can kill 100 people.
A. brunoi is 25 times as lethal. Roughly one gram of A. brunoi’s venom could kill 300,000 mice or 80 humans. That said, the hylid frogs probably produce and deliver their venom in much smaller doses.
A. brunoi frogs have similar head structures to those of C. greeningi, so researchers think they might serve similar purposes. (Carlos Jared)
“The toxicity of both poisons and venoms varies dramatically across species in nature,” says Summers, so it’s impossible to say that one type of chemical weapon is fundamentally more dangerous. The main takeaway is that both venom and poison can kill you in truly horrifying and painful ways. Field biologists, beware.
This is a White-lipped Pit Viper (Trimeresurus albolabris), which is one of the many Green Tree Vipers. Green Tree Vipers have hemotoxic venom, which causes blood to coagulate, causing extreme pain. An untreated bite can result in the loss of a finger or even death.
These snakes are nocturnal and are rarely seen during the day. They feed mainly on rodents and frogs. This is one of the most common dangerous snakes in Thailand, being responsible for the most venomous snake bites in Asia every year. This snake has very many common names, including Bamboo Viper, Green Pit Viper, Green Tree Viper, White-lipped Pit Viper, Yellow-lipped Pit Viper and many more.
There are things in Australia that you just won’t see anywhere else in the world. Think of the Sydney Opera House or the Gold Coast. Even better, how about a large and terrifying redback spider, catching and eating an equally large and equally terrifying eastern brown snake? Have you heard of such an occurrence anywhere else in the world?
I didn’t think so.
Yet this is exactly the scene that Australian farmer Neale Postlethwaite came across in his garage late last month. You can see in the video below that the snake has its tail stuck in the redback’s strong web. Postlethwaite managed to film a quick video of the deadly encounter before the spider scurried back into its nest underneath his car.
The snake was dead and being devoured by ants when Postlethwaite came back to his garage the next day. The spider was unfortunately nowhere to be found. If I were this farmer, I think it would be a good time to buy a new car.
Deadly droplets: Nick Clemann milking a Highland Copperhead snake for its venom. Photo: Penny Stephens
Venom samples from some of Australia’s most dangerous wildlife will be collected and stored at the country’s first publicly available venom bank, to be housed at Melbourne Museum.
The venom bank, a joint project between the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, Melbourne Museum and Melbourne University, will store samples from snakes, spiders, scorpions and even the blue-ringed octopus and male platypus.
However, it will be a venom bank with a difference. Not only will the potentially deadly droplets be available for researchers to study but each venom sample will be able to be matched with the specimen it came from and tissue containing the animal’s DNA and RNA.
Of the more than 100,000 venomous species on the planet, probably only 1000 have been studied and fewer than 100 would be considered familiar to scientists.
Snake venom is most commonly collected for antivenom production – but even on that front Arthur Rylah senior scientist Nick Clemann said there was much still to be learnt.
For example, researchers are starting to explore if venom from the same species can vary depending on age or geographic location. The venom produced by an alpine-dwelling copperhead snake may well differ from its lowland counterpart.
“This raises the question; could we make better antivenom if it was geographic-specific,” Mr Clemann said. “A Melbourne-specific tiger snake antivenom may be more effective and have fewer side-effects than the current antivenom which uses snakes collected from anywhere in Australia.”
The samples stored at the venom bank will be available to researchers across Australia, with research topics not limited to improving antivenom.
Analysing the differences between a species venom depending on location may also provide researchers with valuable taxonomic information.
Venom is also known to have other uses in the pharmaceutical sphere. An ingredient derived from cone snail venom, a type of marine mollusc, is already used in the painkiller Ziconotide. The naturally-occurring toxin has a potency 1000-times that of morphine.
Venoms also have shown potential for use in next-generation coronary, blood pressure and heart disease medication.
In 2013, University of Queensland researchers identified new types of anticoagulants and compounds that open arteries and increase blood flow in the venom of the common vampire bat from Central and South America.
“It’s pretty neat that nature can turn 180-degrees and something that was once feared and harmful becomes something that is beneficial,” Mr Clemann said.