Whether you like, dislike, or fear snakes, you can’t deny that these are fascinating and unique creatures.
Today, we will discuss 8 of the most feared and deadly neurotoxic venom snakes to find out what makes them so overwhelming.
But let’s start with the beginning!
What is Neurotoxic Venom?
Neurotoxic venom is a biochemical compound that contains multiple peptides and proteins capable of disrupting the nervous system’s functioning.
In short, the neurotoxic cocktail destroys the nervous system’s ability to send electrical signals in the body, including the muscles. This can lead to gradual paralysis that usually starts at the head and soon takes over the entire body.
The real problem begins when the diaphragm ceases to function, rendering the victim unable to breathe anymore.
At this point, death is just a matter of time. Artificial ventilation and the administration of antivenom are critical to circumvent these effects and ensure a full recovery.
The main problem here is that snake venom has multiple potential properties and effects, depending on several factors.
- The species that bit you – Some snakes are drastically more venomous and deadly than others.
- The location of the bite – In essence, the closer the bite wound is to the heart, the faster and deadlier the effects.
- The amount of venom injected – Some snakes deliver a lot of venom, while others only a little. And then you have dry bites where the snake won’t inject any venom at all. That’s because venom is a valuable resource that takes time to produce, and the snake needs it to hunt its prey. If it has no venom, it can’t eat.
- The snake’s age – It’s widely accepted that baby and juvenile snakes are far deadlier than adults. This may sound counterintuitive, but it actually makes sense. Because the snakes are so tiny when they’re young, they cannot use their size to intimidate potential predators. So, Mother Nature corrected that by providing younger snakes with a considerably more powerful venom cocktail. Also, baby snakes don’t know how to control the amount of venom injected; they will usually inject a lot in one bite.
- The number of bites – Snakes can bite with lightning speed before you get the chance to react. Some snakes are so fast and aggressive that they can bite multiple times, each time injecting more venom than necessary to kill a person. The amount of venom also impacts the severity of the symptoms.
Now that you know the basics let’s check the most feared representatives of the neurotoxic venom gang.
8 Snake Types with Neurotoxic Venom
The following neurotoxic snakes are probably some of the most popular species in the world.
1. Coral Snakes
Coral snakes can grow up to 20 inches, so they’re fairly small, which is common for venomous snakes in general. They are also very colorful, with a stripe and band-based pattern, mixing black, yellow, and red in a gorgeous color display. Coral snakes have several notable characteristics.
The most obvious one is the confusing anatomy. The snake’s head has no clear features like a side-protruding jaw, a distinct shape, or a clear bone structure.
Instead, the head simply follows the body’s pattern, which makes it difficult to distinguish when combined with the black face.
This causes the snake’s natural predators, and even humans, to mistake the head for the tail since they’re very similar in shape and appearance. This can be a costly mistake, as you can imagine.
Threat Level – High
The coral snake’s neurotoxic venom is very potent and can kill in absence of proper treatment. However, coral snakes aren’t as deadly as people think for several reasons.
The first one is the fact that coral snakes have small and weak fangs that don’t retract to the mouth palate as with other species. This means they can’t always pierce the human skin, not to mention leather boots or other types of protection.
Then you have the fact that coral snake venom comes with delayed symptoms and effects. It often takes 10-13 hours for the venom to take effect, during which you can seek medical attention.
In some cases, patients showcase the first symptoms 24 hours after the bite. The treatment consists of ventilation and the administration of antivenom.
The treatment’s effectiveness is the reason why coral snakes haven’t been responsible for a single human death since the 1960s.
Cobras are the most recognizable venomous snakes thanks to their potent neurotoxic venom and personality.
Contrary to their monster-like reputation, cobras are actually very shy. They won’t attack humans on purpose and always prefer to flee rather than confront the big, bald monkey.
The King cobra ranks as the largest venomous snake in the world, capable of reaching between 12 and 18 feet.
These snakes are also notorious for their upright posturing when threatened, and the trademark ominous hood meant to make the snake appear larger.
Threat Level – Very High
One cobra bite can kill approximately 11 humans, and the symptoms appear soon after the bite. Professional treatment is necessary almost immediately to prevent paralysis and asphyxiation.
While cobras are very shy animals, they are widespread throughout Asia and Africa and often reach human settlements.
This increases the likelihood of snake-human contact, and it shows. The Indian cobra, for instance, kills approximately 15,000 people per year across several countries, and this is just one species.
Approximately 64,000 Indians die due to snake bites every year, and many of these cases relate to several species of cobras.
Vipers are recognizable by their zig-zag color pattern on the back and are generally short but powerful venomous snakes.
Multiple viper species exist, varying in size, physiology, and appearance. The overall size can vary between 10 inches and 10 feet, depending on the species.
It’s also worth noting that vipers differ in overall behavior and lifestyle. Some are terrestrial, while others are arboreal or even aquatic, as is the case with the moccasins.
This species is designed to hunt warm-blooded animals and possesses infrared receptors on its head to detect warm prey.
Threat Level – Extreme
Let’s just say this isn’t a creature you should try to befriend. Vipers are very powerful, agile, and deadly snakes, capable of delivering lethal doses of venom in a split-second.
If that wasn’t enough, vipers usually have very long fangs (Gaboon vipers possess the largest fangs in the snake world, reaching 2 inches), so they can inject the venom deep into the wound.
They also deliver a lot of venom with one bite and can bite multiple times. Generally speaking, viper venom is hemotoxic. This means that it causes blood clots at the area of the bite, leading to tissue necrosis and death.
Amputation is often necessary to discard the affected limb. If you’re bitten in an area that can’t be amputated, tough luck.
However, some viper species possess a mix of hemotoxic and neurotoxic venom, making them that much more dangerous.
Rattlesnakes qualify as pit vipers, as they belong to the same family. They are highly recognizable reptiles thanks to their appearance and trademark rattle sound that they produce with their tail rings. Rattlesnakes live in arid regions and are nocturnal, only coming out to hunt at night.
These are relatively small snakes, growing between 1.5 to 8.2 feet, depending on the species. The typical rattlesnake has a powerful body with a triangle-shaped head, specific to vipers.
The larger jaw is meant to accommodate the bent hypodermic fangs that lie on the mouth palate when the mouth is closed.
The rattlesnake will lose its fangs several times during its lifetime, with others taking their place.
Rattlesnakes have 7 backup fangs developing behind the active ones, which will replace them over time.
Threat Level – Very High
Fortunately, rattlesnakes are very shy and spend their days in hiding, resting, warming up, and digesting their food. They’re only active at dusk and during nighttime when they rely on their heat detection abilities to hunt warm-blooded animals.
This reclusive lifestyle makes them less likely to encounter humans, but it’s not out of the question.
Rattlesnakes also make their presence noticed by flaring their tail rings, producing that ominous sound that warns you to keep your distance.
If you ignore or are oblivious to it, the rattlesnake will bite, injecting a powerful cocktail of hemotoxic and neurotoxic venom. Immediate treatment is necessary, especially if the snake is past the 3.3 feet mark.
5. Bushmaster Snakes
Bushmaster snakes, also known as Lachesis vipers, are widespread throughout Central, North, and South America. They are beautiful snakes that can reach between 6 and 12 feet in length and live up to 24 years.
They showcase a long, powerful, and colored body with differently-colored rhomboids on the back. Depending on the species, bushmaster snakes showcase colors like yellow, tan, red, orange, etc.
Interestingly enough, bushmaster snakes also have a rattlesnake-like tail that will vibrate when agitated.
However, they won’t produce a sound as loud, which is why this species is also known as the mute rattlesnake.
Threat Level – Extreme
This is a species of viper, and we’ve already discussed how dangerous these reptiles are. However, the bushmaster snake takes the threat to another level.
Unlike most other venomous snakes, this one is not shy or easily rattled. Bushmaster snakes are notoriously aggressive to the point of even chasing you to deliver their bite(s).
They have long fangs, can bite multiple times, crawl at high speeds after you, and deliver obscene amounts of highly potent venom.
This makes the bushmaster one of the most feared snake species around.
6. Sea Snakes
The sea snake belongs to the cobra family and makes up quite a unique species. These are aquatic animals that typically live in waters no deeper than 100 feet.
They come in different colors and patterns, depending on the species. Some are black with yellow stripes, others are black with white bellies, and some are blue with black stripes.
Sea snakes also grow between 3.3 and 9 feet and populate coastal areas around the Indian and western Pacific oceans.
This species has adapted to a semi-aquatic habitat, leading the snakes to develop body-long lungs and the ability to breathe through their skin. A truly fascinating species with deadly potential.
Threat Level – Moderate
These snakes rank among the most venomous in the world. The neurotoxic cocktail is often deadly, especially since the bite is generally painless.
Most victims don’t even realize that they’ve been bitten until minutes or hours later when symptoms begin to appear. Death is assured when lacking proper treatment due to the respiratory collapse that ensues soon.
Fortunately, the contact frequency between sea snakes and humans is minimal.
Also, this species has small fangs, only delivers a small amount of venom per bite, and avoids humans at all costs. Hence, the ‘Moderate’ ranking.
The Krait is an elapid that belongs to the cobra family. It possesses a powerful neurotoxic venom, which is fitting given that Kraits usually feed on prey larger than they are.
These snakes can reach 6.6 feet, although most species remain below half that. They mostly inhabit Asian land, between Pakistan and Indonesia, but can be found in many areas around Southeast Asia.
Almost all species showcase a banded pattern with varying colors like silver, yellow, black, white, and blue.
An interesting fact about Kraits is that they can swallow massive prey, which they will only digest on land. The digestion process can last for weeks, depending on the prey’s size.
Threat Level – Extreme
If I were you, I would find out where Kraits live and avoid those areas for the rest of my life.
The only thing that’s holding this species back from becoming the most dangerous species in the world is the frequency of human encounters.
Kraits are less likely to run into humans due to their aquatic lifestyle.
That being said, Krait’s neurotoxic venom is literal nightmare fuel. Patients experience gradual paralysis, which can also come with severe overall neurotoxicity.
Most human victims experience worsening paralysis and require intensive intubation even after the administration of antivenom.
That’s because the antivenom can only target and neutralize unbound venom molecules. Those already bonded with blood cells are unaffected.
The recovery process is long and gradual. Many patients even experience mild problems with their nervous system’s functioning 4-6 weeks after the bite. In some cases, full recovery is achieved after 6-9 months.
That says it all.
Few things inspire more horror than the name of Black Mamba. These snakes can measure between 6.6 and 14 feet and are generally ash-grey or brown.
The black part of their name comes from the interior of their mouths.
These snakes can live up to 11 years in the wild and are generally shy, which is commendable, as you will soon see.
Threat Level – Extreme
You simply don’t want to run into a Black Mamba, even for the sole reason that running into it is the only thing you can do. Because you sure can’t run away from it. Black
Mambas stand as some of the fastest snakes on earth, capable of reaching 12 miles per hour. This is slightly faster than the average human’s sprint speed.
Also, the snake can bite multiple times and inflict a highly toxic venom that can attack the main nervous system and the heart.
Being bitten in the wild is a death sentence, as help is unlikely to reach in time. Stay away!
Effects of Neurotoxic Venom on Humans
Neurotoxic venom attacks the central nervous system, cutting out nervous impulses to the rest of the body. This effect results in gradual paralysis and renders the victim unable to breathe.
Without intubation, death by asphyxiation is guaranteed. It’s worth noting that many neurotoxic snakes also inflict hemotoxic-specific effects, leading to localized necrosis, tissue destruction, gangrene, and infections.
Also, people sensitive to snake venom can experience anaphylactic shock, which is also deadly.
Neurotoxic Venom Treatment
The treatment usually consists of 2 phases: intubation and venom administration.
However, the type of antivenom to use depends on the species that bit you. So, you should be ready to give a detailed description of the snake to help professionals administer the correct antivenom.
A snake’s deadly potential depends on many factors. In this sense, you have highly venomous snakes that don’t rank too high on the death scale simply because they live solitary lives with minimal human contact.
Others have a less potent venom but come into contact with humans more often, bite multiple times, and deliver more venom with each bite.
So, you can’t really tell what one species can do or how dangerous a specific bite is.
You should always take precautions if you plan on visiting geographical areas known for their venomous snakes and ask for professional help when bitten.