The most venomous snakes on the planet

We are often asked “what is the deadliest snake in the world” – it is such a difficult question to answer because there are SO many factors to take into account, and so any such characterisation is inherently flawed…..this list, however, should give an indication as to some of the contenders!

First and foremost it is important to understand that the most venomous snakes are not necessarily the most dangerous snakes, nor the deadliest.

Secondly, it is also important to understand the method used to gauge any inviduals’ venom toxicity. Snake venom , and other toxins, are measured using the LD50 test.

The LD50 test has several flaws and any list published (including this one) should not be taken as absolute rankings.

(the next post will discuss WHY the LD 50 is not definitive)

There are four methods in which the LD50 test is measured :

Subcutaneous : Venom is injected into the fatty layer beneath the skin.

Intravenous : Venom is injected directly into a vein.

Intramuscular : Venom is injected into a muscle.

Intraperitoneal : Venom is injected into the abdominal cavity.

It is interesting to note that, depending on the method used, LD50 results vary greatly for a single species.

For example the Balck Mamba Balck Mamba (Dendroaspis ploylepis) has a LD50 of 0.25(mg/kg) when measured intravenously, 0.32(mg/kg) and 0.941(mg/kg) when measured subcutaneously and intraperitoneally respectively.

It is important to realise that most snakebite envenomations occur subcutaneously and intravenously.

There are a few cases of intramuscular envenomations, particularly within the Bitis group (Gaboon adder,puff adder ). There are no records (obviously) regarding intraperitoneal envenomations.

The lists below indicate the 10 most venomous species within each category. They do not however take into consideration the venom yield.

Sub-cutaneous LD50s (mg/kg)

  1. Inland Taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus) 0.025
  2. Eastern Brown Snake (Pseudonaja textilis) 0.036
  3. Dubois’s Sea Snake (Aipysurus duboisii) 0.044
  4. Yellow-bellied Sea Snake (Pelamis platurus) 0.067
  5. Horned Sea Snake (Acalyptophis peronii) 0.079
  6. Coastal Taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus) 0.106
  7. Many Banded Krait (Bungarus multicinctus) 0.108
  8. Black Banded Sea Snake (Hydrophis melanosoma) 0.111
  9. Beaked Sea Snake (Enhydrina schistosa) 0.112

10.Congo Water Cobra (Boulengeria christyi) 0.12

Other noteworthy contenders:

13.Saw-Scaled Viper (Echis carinatus) 0.151

  1. Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) 0.32
  2. King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) 1.7

Intravenous LD50s (mg/kg)

  1. Eastern Brown Snake (Pseudonaja textilis) 0.01
  2. Coastal Taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus) 0.013
  3. Mainlaind Tiger Snake (Notechis sctulatus) 0.04
  4. Tiger Rattlesnake (Crotalus tigris) 0.056
  5. Boomslang (Dispholidus typus) 0.071
  6. Midget Faded Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis concolor) 0.082
  7. Many Banded Krait (Bungarus multicinctus) 0.113
  8. Russels Viper (Daboia russelli russelli) 0.133
  9. Banded Sea Krait (Laticauda laticauda) 0.163

10.Indian Krait (Bungarus caeruleus) 0.169

Other noteworthy contenders:

13.Horned adder (Bitis caudalis) 0.2

31.White-lipped Viper (Trimeresurus alblolabris) 0.37

42.Cape Cobra (Naja nivea) 0.57

Intra-muscular LD50s (mg/kg)

  1. Black Banded Sea Snake (Hydrophis melanosoma) 0.082
  2. Olive Sea Snake (Aipysurus laevi) 0.09
  3. Reef Sea Snake (Hydrophis ornatus) 0.12
  4. Faint-banded Sea Snake (Hydrophis belcheri) 0.155
  5. Elegant Sea Snake (Hydrophis elegans) 0.21
  6. San Lucan Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchelli mitchelli) 0.3
  7. Black Spitting Cobra (Naja nigricollis) 0.44
  8. Puff Adder (Bitis arietans) 2.0
  9. Lower California Rattlesnake (Crotalus enyo enyo) 4.6

10.Aspic Viper (Vipera aspis) 4.7

Other noteworthy contenders:

11.Gaboon Adder (Bitis gabonica) 5.2

19.Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) 20.

In establishing which are the most venomous snakes it is important to note that not all species have been LD50 tested. These numbers are averages taken from different laboratories conducting similar tests on on specific species.

To establish the most venomous snakes one must also take into consideration the venom yield. However, by combining the above lists, it is possible to get a general overview, or indication as to the most venomous snakes on earth.

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