Feb 1

Forget about snakes on a plane, we have snakes on a page - a blog page! These fascinating legless carnivorous reptiles have featured as terrible man killers in works of fiction for centuries. More often than not this reputation is unfounded and most snakes will actively avoid human contact. Different species of snake vary dramatically in shape, size and colour and are found in a range of different habitats on 6 out of the 7 continents in the world – from dry deserts to lush jungles and even under the sea.

Unsurprisingly, it is the species of snake that are potentially deadly to human that get the most attention (even if there are no reported cases) and we have no shortage of them on ARKive. Here is ARKive’s Top 10 Deadliest Snakes.

Black mamba

Photo of two black male mambas fighting

A double dose of deadly – two black male mambas fight it out for dominance

The black mamba is a long and extremely venomous snake found in Southern Africa. It gets its name from its distinctive black mouth.  If its neurotoxic venom was not enough for you, the black mamba is also highly aggressive and very fast – not a good mix if you were to stumble into its territory.

Olive-brown sea snake

Photo of an olive-brown sea snake

Danger in the deep -the olive-brown sea snake

The olive-brown sea snake is specially adapted to a life at sea with special glands located in the mouth that allow it to get rid of excess salt. This snake is also somewhat docile making its enzyme-loaded venom (that digests prey from the inside)  slightly less terrifying.

King cobra

King cobra photo

The king cobra rests…for now

The forest dwelling king cobra lives the longest out of all venomous snakes – the same can’t be said about its prey: other snakes! At least it will give you a warning if it feels threatened by your presence - it growls!

Namaqua dwarf adder

Namaqua dwarf adder photo

A hidden danger waiting to strike – the Namaqua dwarf adder

The Namaqua dwarf adder is found in southern Africa and is the smallest venomous snake in the world, but don’t think that means its not afraid to use it long hinged fangs…

Adder

Adder

The adders in the UK have British venom in the land!

As Britain’s only venomous snake, the adder automatically wins the title of Britain’s deadliest snake. Though as it is a somewhat shy and timid species you would have to be quite lucky to see one and very unlucky to get bitten by one.

Horned sea snake

Horned sea snake photo

That look says it all really

Being on the receiving end of a stare from the horned sea snake would be a scary experience indeed. I doubt knowing that it was also one of the most toxic sea snakes would ease your mind but there have actually no recorded cases of bites to humans.

Green anaconda

Green anaconda photo

The green anaconda showing that you don’t need to be venomous to be deadly

You don’t need to be venomous to be deadly and the green anaconda, the world largest snake, relies solely on constricting its prey to suffocate it so it may be swallowed whole. Despite what you may have seen in various films, attacks on humans are very rare – though there are reported cases.

Arabian horned viper

Arabian horned viper in desert habitat

The desert dwelling Arabian horned viper

King of the desert, the Arabian horned viper is an ambush predator that lies and waits to strike, loading its prey with large quantities of powerful venom.

Indian cobra

Indian cobra and mongoose

An Indian cobra locked in mortal combat with a mongoose

Though often seen with snake charmers in India, the Indian cobra is probably not as easy to win over as you may think. Its neurotoxic venom can paralyse prey and in some cases even cause the heart to stop.

Caucasian viper

Caucasian viper photo

Famously venomous – the caucasian viper

The caucasian viper has some of the most potent of all vipers though it is also widely used medicinally to stop heavy bleeding. This snake will often release its prey after it has injected it and track it down later after it has conceded to the venom.

Year of the Snake 2013

In Chinese culture, the 10th February 2013 marks the start of the Year of the Snake. To celebrate, check out our fortune cookies on Facebook and join in with our daily snake hunt on Twitter.

George Bradford, ARKive Media Researcher

Jan 31

Non-native Burmese pythons are believed to be the cause of severe mammal declines in the Florida Everglades, according to new research.

Photo of Asiatic rock python (Python molurus bivittatus) resting in shallow water

Asiatic rock python (Burmese python) resting in water

Escaped pets

Also known as the Asiatic rock python, the Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus) is a large constricting snake native to Asia. The exact origins of the pythons in the Everglades are unknown, but many have been imported into the United States through the pet trade, and some are likely to have escaped or been released into the wild.

In the absence of natural predators, the Burmese python population has exploded. Since 2000 the species has been recognised as being established across large parts of southern Florida, where it is known to eat a wide variety of mammals and birds.

Close up photo of Asiatic rock python showing heat receptors

Close up of Asiatic rock python showing heat receptors, used to detect the body heat of prey

Worrying mammal declines

In new research published in the journal PNAS, a team of scientists studied the number of live and dead mammals spotted along roads in the Everglades National Park. The team compared mammal surveys performed before and after the pythons became common, and found a strong link between the spread of the snakes and a decrease in many mammal species.

In particular, observations of racoons and opossums dropped by about 99%, while white-tailed deer fell by 94% and bobcats by 87.5%. No rabbits or foxes were seen during more recent surveys, despite rabbits being one of the most common mammals in earlier studies.

Most of these mammal species have been recorded in the diet of Burmese pythons in the Everglades National Park, with raccoons and opossums being particularly vulnerable to ambush as they often forage at the water’s edge.

Photo of Asiatic rock python with hog deer prey in water

Asiatic rock python killing hog deer

The decline in mammals was found to coincide with the spread of the pythons, with mammals being more common in areas were the pythons have only recently arrived, and most common outside of the python’s current range. The pythons are also likely to be eating other types of prey, including alligators.

We have documented pythons eating alligators, we have also documented alligators eating pythons. It depends on who is biggest during the encounter,” said Professor Michael Dorcas, one of the authors of the study.

Ecosystem impacts

The exact number of Burmese pythons in the Everglades is unknown, but their numbers are increasing year by year.

Any snake population – you are only seeing a small fraction of the numbers that are actually out there,” said Professor Dorcas. “They are a new top predator in Everglades National Park – one that shouldn’t be there.”

Photo of Asiatic rock python (Python molurus bivittatus) resting on foliage

Although a problem where it has been introduced in the US, the Asiatic rock python is classified as Near Threatened in its native Asia

Professor Dorcas has also stated that more research is needed to assess the potential impacts of the large mammal declines. “It’s not unreasonable to assume that any time we have major declines in mammals like this it’s going to have overall impacts on the ecosystem. Exactly what those are going to be, we don’t know. But it’s possible they could be fairly profound.”

Import ban

Earlier this month, it was announced that the US was poised to approve a ban on the import of Burmese pythons and on the sale of the snake across state lines. Another species that has been found in the Everglades, the African rock python, is also likely to be added to this list of “injurous” species.

Although reptile breeders and collectors have challenged the ban, and it would come too late to reverse the situation in Florida, Professor Dorcas has pointed out that it could help prevent the species from invading other suitable habitats in the United States, such as in southern Louisiana and south Texas.

Read more on this story at BBC – Pythons linked to Florida Everglades mammal decline.

View photos and videos of the Asiatic rock python on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author

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