Snake Venom Facts
Here are some interesting and amazing facts about snake venom.
Worldwide less than 30% of snake species are venomous and even less are dangerously venomous to humans, around 10%. As always there are some exceptions, in Australia, around 2/3 of all snakes are venomous when compared with the United States, where only about 10% of all species are venomous snakes.
Snake venom is basically highly modified saliva that is made up of around 80% proteins and some 20% enzymes. Most of these enzymes are harmless to humans, but there are about 20 toxic enzymes known to man, and the unique mixtures of these zootoxins and proteins make for the lethal snake venom.
The venom is usually injected by the snake but some species are capable of spitting venom like the Mozambique spitting cobra (Naja mossambica). When a snake bite does occur it doesn't necessarily mean an envenomation bite. The injection of venom is controlled by the snake. In about 50% of the times, the snake delivers a "dry bite" where no venom is actually injected into to victim.
Although the Common Cobra venom is not on the top 10 venom's, it is still around 40 times more toxic than cyanide. The Australian Brown Snake's venom is so powerful that a mere 1/14000 of an ounce (0.002 ml) is enough to kill a human.
If you are bitten, you must remain calm under all circumstances, as panic and shock are bigger will enhance the venom's effects. Some of the most important things to remember are, never make any incisions in the snake bite area and never try to suck out the venom, these actions can be more harmful than beneficial.
Types of snake venom and their effects
Depending on the snake species, there are 4 principal types of venom that have been identified. Venomous snakes may inject a mix of several types of venom, with each venom type acting differently in the victim.
This venom effects blood and circulation using up the clotting factors so it no longer coagulates. In the wild, the prey will die from cardiovascular failure and massive bleeding. If a human is bitten this will often result in great pain, drop of blood pressure, swelling and bruising, followed by extensive bleeding from the gums, nose, eyes and in the brain.
If not treated a bite can result in death. Several snake species use this type of venoms like the Siamese Russell's Viper and Malayan Pit Viper or the boomslang (Dispholidus typus) one of the most venomous snakes in Africa.
It affects muscle tissue and can lead to death from kidney and heart failure. The venom will rapidly disable muscle contractions, making it easier for the snake to hold and eat its prey. In humans, the bite results in pain in the legs, hips, and shoulders.
About 1 out of 4 victims will endure severe muscle and kidney damage, in some cases can cause muscle necrosis, the death of cells and tissue.Some examples of the species that use it are Rattlesnakes like the Mojave rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus), Sea Snakes and Sea Kraits.
It destroys cells, and attacks that everything in its path, blood vessels, cells, and tissues. However, this is a milder form of venom that usually causes only localized symptoms, like pain followed by severe swelling and bleeding.
It causes the formation of red blisters near the bite area and blue/black spotting due to the limited blood circulation. Secondary symptoms are nausea and vomiting. A bite if left untreated within few hours, may lead to a need for an amputation. The Puff Adder uses this type of venom and is responsible for more fatalities than any other African snake.
This type of venom effects the nervous system. It causes degeneration of the synaptic nerves, and for this reason, it blocks the nerve impulses sent to and from the brain to the muscles. The symptoms are a progressive paralysis of the skeletal and peripheral muscles.
Human envenomation symptoms start with drooping eyelids and a dazed, almost sleep like paralysis, sometimes followed by spasms, excess salivation and vomiting. Swelling and tissue damage do occur in some cases. Without treatment, death can result from respiratory or heart failure.
The Siamese Cobra venom is more toxic than that of the King Cobra, however, the King Cobra injects a much larger quantity in each bite, as it is one of the biggest snakes in the world.
The venom of the Malayan krait is the most toxic of the kraits and the snake usually bites at night while the victim is sleeping so the sleep like symptoms of paralysis can go unnoticed.
Did You Know?
African gaboon viper has the longest fangs measuring more than 2 inches (5 cm).