Environment
Fact-checked

At AllThingsNature, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

Which Snake Venom is Most Toxic?

The title of most toxic snake venom belongs to the inland taipan, whose lethal cocktail can kill 100 men with a single bite. Its venom is finely tuned to incapacitate prey instantly, a chilling testament to nature's precision. Intrigued? Discover how this serpent's deadly defense eclipses others and what it means for both science and survival. Ready to delve deeper?
G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen

Establishing which specific snake venom is the most toxic is a somewhat complicated process that typically does not have a single clear outcome without defining certain variables first. For example, “most toxic” can refer to which snake venom is the deadliest given a certain quantity, or it could temper that initial idea by also considering how much venom is injected by a snake per bite. The toxicity of the bite can also depend on how the bite is delivered, whether the teeth only punctured the skin or if the venom managed to be injected into a vein or directly into deep muscle tissue. For many people, the deadliest snake in the world is considered to be the inland taipan of Australia, but this is certainly open to debate and interpretation.

Snake venom toxicity is typically measured in terms of median lethal dosage (LD-50) or the amount necessary to be lethal for half of a test group. This type of testing is typically performed on lab mice, and though it tends to be accurate, snake venom can potentially behave somewhat differently in a mouse compared to a human being. LD-50 measurements are commonly measured in milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg), indicating the amount of venom required to be lethal.

A shed snakeskin.
A shed snakeskin.

Using this type of measurement helps make it easier to compare toxicity levels in snakes; however, the results can still depend on how the venom is delivered. Some researchers believe that subcutaneous injections, introducing the snake venom below the skin but not necessarily into a vein, is the most accurate as it represents the majority of snake bites. In this type of experiment the most toxic snake is the inland taipan of Australia, sometimes called the “fierce snake,” with an LD-50 of only 0.025 mg/kg. This is compared to the western diamondback rattlesnake found in North America, which has venom with an LD-50 measurement of 18.5 mg/kg, making the venom of the inland taipan about 740 times more toxic than the venom of the rattlesnake.

A cobra, a type of venomous snake.
A cobra, a type of venomous snake.

When considering a snake bite that injects the poison directly into a vein, an intravenous injection, these numbers are different. The western diamondback rattlesnake venom has an LD-50 of 2.72 mg/kg for intravenous bites, significantly more deadly than for subcutaneous measurements. In intravenous testing, the eastern brown snake of Australia has the most toxic venom with an LD-50 of 0.01 mg/kg. These sorts of differences in measuring techniques make it difficult to establish just what snake venom is the most toxic.

Bites from venomous snakes require anti-venom medicines administered only by medical professionals.
Bites from venomous snakes require anti-venom medicines administered only by medical professionals.

Further complicating the issue is how much venom is injected with a single bite by a snake. For example, the coastal taipan of Australia has venom that is less toxic than that of the eastern brown snake of Australia. The coastal taipan, however, can inject 20-30 times more venom in a single bite, making the results of a bite from the coastal taipan potentially more fatal. Ultimately, however, these measurements are fairly academic in nature as any of these snakes can easily kill a person in a single bite and in a short period of time.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments

wiesen

I certainly agree that the temperament of a snake is important. However, since the question was regarding the toxicity of a snake's venom, I focused more on that issue. Had the question been "What is the deadliest snake?" then the issue of disposition would be a fairly large focus.

anon88570

Good article! However, they forgot to include the snake's disposition or temperament, which would help determine it's propensity to bite, thus not only addressing toxicity but the danger of a particular snake. But this is my original question, so maybe I'm too picky.

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register:
    • A shed snakeskin.
      By: Ekaterina Fribus
      A shed snakeskin.
    • A cobra, a type of venomous snake.
      By: surachai
      A cobra, a type of venomous snake.
    • Bites from venomous snakes require anti-venom medicines administered only by medical professionals.
      By: S.Külcü
      Bites from venomous snakes require anti-venom medicines administered only by medical professionals.
    • Testing venom potency in lab mice can give researchers an idea of how harmful the poisons are to humans.
      By: FikMik
      Testing venom potency in lab mice can give researchers an idea of how harmful the poisons are to humans.