The surfeit of venomous snakes in Australia

Here, from Facebook, is a list of the world’s most venomous snakes, as measured by the LD50 (the amount of venom it take to kill 50% of a given prey type, expressed as milligrams of venom per kilogram of prey). Note that the top 11 are all from Australia, as are 21 of the top 25.

Now why are there so many venomous snakes in Australia? (I think the same holds for venomous spiders.) I can think of two or three reasons, and I’m sure it’s been discussed in the literature, but it’s Saturday and I’ll leave this for readers to think about or look up.

But I do want to mention the #1 most venomous snake: the Inland taipan. How venomous is it? Ask Wikipedia (my emphasis):

Based on the median lethal dose value in mice, its venom, drop for drop, is by far the most toxic of any snake – much more so than even sea snakes – and it has the most toxic venom of any reptile when tested on human heartcell culture. Unlike most snakes, the inland taipan is a specialist mammalhunter so its venom is specially adapted to kill warm-blooded species. It is estimated that one bite possesses enough lethality to kill at least 100 fully grown men, and, depending on the nature of the bite, it has the potential to kill someone in as little as 30 to 45 minutes if left untreated. It is an extremely fast and agile snake that can strike instantly with extreme accuracy, often striking multiple times in the same attack, and it envenoms in almost every case.

Of course that raises the question of why it’s wasting venom if its prey are smaller than humans (which they are), and it could kill even a kangaroo dozens of times over with a single bite. I’ll leave that for you to ponder as well. In the meantime, here’s a video on the critter and the overly macho man who provokes it (if you want to see Steve Irwin doing the same thing, go here):

 

91 Comments

  1. ploubere
    Posted February 3, 2018 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    I don’t much care for these TV personalities who go out and harass animals in order to get dramatic footage. I would not shed tears if he got bitten.

    • Posted February 3, 2018 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      I agree that they shouldn’t harass the animals (Irwin was REALLY bad about that) but I wouldn’t wish for someone to get killed.

      • Steve Pollard
        Posted February 3, 2018 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

        I wonder if Irwin was similarly harassing the stingray that did kill him.

        • Posted February 4, 2018 at 8:07 am | Permalink

          He was swimming near it, I think, so that the cameraman could get footage of the ray and Irwin in the same frame. But the ray was spooked and it stung Irwin as it fled.

        • Nobody Special
          Posted February 4, 2018 at 11:47 am | Permalink

          Well, according to comedian Frankie Boyle, Irwin’s last words were “Stingrays just love foreplay”.

      • phil
        Posted February 3, 2018 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

        The curious thing is that Irwin’s fame came from overseas. It was only after he attracted enough attention elsewhere that people started to notice him in his own country, AFAIK. Apart from Bindi of course (rolls eyes).

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 3, 2018 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Almost enough to get an Aussie to pray to St. Patrick, I bet.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted February 5, 2018 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      God put all those snakes there so the sinners sent there in the convict ships would be living a suitably dangerous existence.

      And just a hop over the Tasman to NZ, there aren’t even any snakes, let alone venomous ones.

      And also only one venomous spider with a very limited range. It bites the odd tourist every few years, but not NZers, and is very hard to find.

      Actually, there are no myths, religious or otherwise, about the lack of snakes in NZ.

  3. Posted February 3, 2018 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    When I discuss having visited Australia, I tell people that most of the animals in Australia are cute, deadly, or both.

    I would guess that one reason for lethality of venom is that it is a low cost to produce for the snake; while the prey surviving long enough to escape is a high cost to the snake. Hence it is better to produce extremely lethal venom to ensure the prey is killed quickly, rather than produce ‘just enough’ and risk not eating.

    As for why there are so many venomous snakes in Australia, perhaps they all evolved from an ancestral venomous species that was one of the first to colonize Australia? Or venom is a better hunting strategy than constriction regarding the climate and prey animals in Australia? (Less chance of injury, less energy expended chasing and holding prey, etc.)

    • glen1davidson
      Posted February 3, 2018 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      Some prey could, and sometimes would, harm the snake, rather than run away. They might be trapped or enraged, and would retaliate. It would be well to incapacitate predators (and perhaps rivals) quickly too. And, a wound in the wild can easily become infected.

      I don’t know how fast the venom incapacitates, but, if it’s quickly (I suspect it is), that should benefit the serpent, whether it just wants to eat it, or to avoid harm.

      Glen Davidson

      • phil
        Posted February 3, 2018 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

        From what I’ve heard the inland taipan is a very shy animal, and you probably have to go out of your way to get bitten. OTOH the eastern brown is quite aggressive ad will chase you through the bush.

  4. Hempenstein
    Posted February 3, 2018 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Why is the venom far more lethal than necessary? Perhaps the historical primary prey co-evolved resistance to it, but is itself now extinct?

    • Hempenstein
      Posted February 3, 2018 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      Or to go one further – that historical prey was tiny, to boot, and many more than one example was needed for each feeding. In the end, the venom was sufficient to guarantee a meal, but that also caused the extinction.

      • Posted February 3, 2018 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

        I suspect it’s because a huge amount of venom kills the prey more quickly; you cant let it run away a long distance before dying. Humans, I think, would take a while to die from a bit, but a small mammal might expire almost instantly, so the meal is right there. That’s just a guess.

        • Hempenstein
          Posted February 3, 2018 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

          I wonder if any of these are like cone snails, with multiple different toxins that act on different neuronal channels? Until I hear differently, the cone snails are still the champs when it comes to venoms. (Some species are lethal to humans!)

          • Posted February 4, 2018 at 8:09 am | Permalink

            That is right, as I understand it. They are snails that hunt fish, so they need to incapacitate their prey very quicly.

            • Hempenstein
              Posted February 4, 2018 at 9:28 am | Permalink

              Yes, and they’re barely motile, to boot, adding to the necessity of near-instant incapacitation. As to prey, there are three types – fish-hunting snails, worm-hunting snails, and snail-hunting snails. And the mechanism of venom delivery is just spectacular (NB: not ingenious, which would imply a creationary event). They fire a hollow, venom-filled calcareous harpoon (it’s barbed!!) at the prey.

          • Posted February 5, 2018 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

            Yes, there are different toxins produced by the same snake, some neurotoxins, others interfering with clotting or complement, disintegrins “dissolving” the tissue etc.

        • Hempenstein
          Posted February 3, 2018 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

          Hey, one more thought, tying into your hypothesis. From some of the other comments I gather that many of these are desert snakes. So if that means that their prey live mostly in holes, they need to be dispatched quickly, before they disappear back in a hole that’s inconvenient/impossible for the snake to both follow them into and extract itself from.

        • phil
          Posted February 3, 2018 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

          Perhaps the venom evolved to deal with much larger animals that have since gone extinct.

          Oz used to be populated by various forms of megafauna some of which I’m sure was carnivorous. Perhaps the venom evolved as a form of defence against large animals that might take a snake for a snack.

          The megafauna died out a couple of tens of thousands of years ago, if I’ve got it right.

          I’m talking off the top of my head of course. I’ve never asked a snake directly.

          Apart from venemous snakes and spiders (I think there are only two spiders that are really dangerous) there are a few nasties in the water too, like box jellyfish (several dangerous species including the irukandji), blue ringed octopus and stonefish, and sea snakes of course. Maybe it is to make up for the dearth of dangerous land animals (putting aside echidnas, platypus and rutting koalas, although the last is really only objectionable).

          And don’t mention the drop bears.

          • David Coxill
            Posted February 4, 2018 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

            Hi ,is it true that the Funnel Web Spider can kill in 20 mins ,and for a long time it was called a fer .

            Because people used to come in saying “Help i have been bitten by a fer,,.”

          • Posted February 5, 2018 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

            I doubt that any snake would evolve venom specifically to deal with larger attackers. In snakes I know, venom is used to incapacitate the prey, and only accidentally used in self-defense.

        • somer
          Posted February 3, 2018 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

          Just found this article on evolution of Australian snake venom dated from 15 July 2004

          http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/stories/2004/1154556.htm

          extract

          Dr Bryan Fry of the Australian Venom Research Unit at the University of Melbourne told a genetics conference this week that DNA analysis showed venom originated from one ancestral type.
          …..
          He said Australian snakes recruited a potent blood enzyme called factor Xa into their venom after colonising the continent about 15 to 20 million years ago.

          The common ancestor of taipans and brown snakes also used a component known as factor V, which is needed for factor Xa to become completely active.

          “This combination is extremely potent and this is what gives the Australian brown snakes and taipans their extreme lethality, more so than any other snake in the world,” he said.

          “Fry said when snakes arrived in Australia they had the entire continent open to them with no competition.

          This isolation led to rapid expansion and radical innovations in the development of their venom.

          Toxicity was also influenced by adapting to new forms of prey, which in turn were potentially dangerous to snakes, such as large rats.

          “People have always wondered why Australian snakes are so toxic and now we know the biological reason,” Fry said.

          “They just hit the absolute jackpot and it makes perfect evolutionary sense that it would occur [in Australia].”

          • Hempenstein
            Posted February 4, 2018 at 9:42 am | Permalink

            This is a great discussion! So it sounds like the Australian snake venoms are factors from the coagualation cascade, which you can read more about here. Those factors are enzymes – proteases – and as such are catalytic, so a small dose goes a long way. In this situation I think the scenario is that they jump in initiate coagulation which ordinarily would require a carefully orchestrated series of events in the non-bitten prey. They’re basically triggering a stroke or heart attack – probably both.

            This is in contrast to cone snail venom which consists of peptides that block nerve channels (with exquisite specificity).

            No idea what spider venoms consist of.

            • Hempenstein
              Posted February 4, 2018 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

              I found this starting point on spider venoms. Looks like they’re a complex mixture of a lot of things, but usually in the primary component are some disulfide-bridged, ion-channel-blocking peptides, like with cone snails. Whether there’s any direct evolutionary relationship between the molluscan and arachnidian peptides is another question, but for now guessing not.

            • Hempenstein
              Posted February 4, 2018 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

              Forgot to add link: http://www.compoundchem.com/2015/05/21/spider-venom/

            • Hempenstein
              Posted February 4, 2018 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

              And here, partly a comparison of cone-snail vs. spider venom components – some with the same target molecules and some degree of structural homology, but no suggestion of direct evolutionary relationship (so convergent evolution at best).

              https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK6148/

        • Chris Taylor
          Posted February 3, 2018 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

          I seem to remember an article which noted that there were different reactions to the venom in different orders of mammals, so a bite that would kill a human would only make a dog sick and barely affect a kangaroo. So what seems a huge overkill to us is necessary to subdue the prey animals. I think the article was by Dr Struan Sutherland, who was one of the senior researchers at the CSIRO or similar here in Aus.

        • squidmaster
          Posted February 4, 2018 at 2:07 am | Permalink

          This is similar to the discussion of why Latrodectus sp. (widow spiders) have such potent venom. Widows have strong webs and have been known to prey on small mammals and reptiles, as well as the usual fare of insects. There is some speculation that widow venom has evolved relatively rapidly as the spiders’ prey bandwidth has increased. I’ll see if I can find a reference.

  5. Ken Pidcock
    Posted February 3, 2018 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Of course, in North America, a brown snake (Storeria dekayi) is a harmless little thing you wouldn’t mind small children playing with.

  6. Martin Levin
    Posted February 3, 2018 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Apparently, most of these Australian snakes are not very aggressive, with the exception of the Eastern Brown. Very few people are even bitten, and even fewer die (4-6; very good anti-venin), as opposed to India, where as many as 45,000-50,000 people a year die from snakebite.

    • somer
      Posted February 3, 2018 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

      True much the majority aren’t aggressive tho will strike if they think they are in danger. However eastern browns are very common. The ones that can be aggressive are tiger snakes.

      There are deaths – but few – I think its the less dense population – and also Australia has a very high concentration of population in the cities and the snakes are only in the bushier areas on outskirts of cities.

    • Posted February 3, 2018 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

      Everyone should of course be very careful with venomous snakes, but I have handled quite a few dugites (Pseudonaja affinis) as part of research and they have always been,even when upset by all the attention, unaggressive and we never had any attempted bites. I hasten to add we always used correct handling techniques, did not handle for long and everyone was trained. Tiger snakes tend to be a little bit grumpier in my experience.

    • David Coxill
      Posted February 4, 2018 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      One reason so many people in rural India die is because the people walk around bare foot ,and a lot of people get bitten at night when they step on a snake in the dark.

      There was a TV programme on the BBC a few years ago.

  7. Hemidactylus
    Posted February 3, 2018 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Where would the bird eating golden lancehead (Bothrops insularis) fall on a list? Has it been tested and compared? My recollection is their venom need to have immediate effect since unlike rodents their prey may fly away to an untrackable location.

  8. Posted February 3, 2018 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    The critical time when a venomous snake needs to have enough toxin to kill quickly is when the snake is very young and small and has relatively little capacity to produce venom. Selection to meet venom needs as a tiny snake may result in the snake producing more than it seems to need as an adult.

    Also, though this snake eats mammals as an adult, what does it eat when young? Frogs, a common choice, tend to be relatively resistant to snake venoms. Once again, selection to meet venom needs of the tiny snake may lead to what seems like overproduction in the adult.

  9. Posted February 3, 2018 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Or, of course, as stated above, the cost of loosing scarce prey that escapes after being bitten may be so high that “overkill” is advantageous.

    Or, maybe the cost of “overly deadly” venom is too trivial to be selected against.

  10. grasshopper
    Posted February 3, 2018 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Just recently in Australia a man tragically died after trying to save his d*g.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/01/12/australian-man-dies-saving-dog-poisonous-snake/

    I fear all snakes, but number 9 on the list makes me apprehensive. The death adder doesn’t get out of your way if it “hears” you coming, so people are more likely to step on it or near it, provoking it to strike. I have read that its original name was “deaf” adder because it behaves like it is deaf.

    Sea-snake bites in Australia are treated with tiger-snake antivenene.

    • tjeales
      Posted February 4, 2018 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

      Poor old death adders have a bad rap and there’s a lot that goes into this but in general the places they lurk in ambush aren’t places where you’re likely to step and they are very endangered so your chances of happening upon one is greatly reduced these days.
      Having said that they are basically invisible and even if you see it are one of the fastest strikers in the snake world that can turn its own length and bite before your brain registers the movement.

  11. Posted February 3, 2018 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    I know why the venom is so powerful! It is as if the snake is saying, “My bite is not only going to kill you but your whole family and everyone else you know as well.”

  12. Raghu Mani
    Posted February 3, 2018 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Interestingly, in spite of being the most venomous snake on earth, the inland taipan has not killed anyone yet. There have been a handful of bites all of which were successfully treated with anti venom. These snakes live in an area that is so remote from human habitation that people (other then professionals who work with these animals and amateur herpers) never encounter them at all.

    – RM

  13. glen1davidson
    Posted February 3, 2018 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    By the way, one question is how much venom the snake does use on smaller prey. The question seems to imply that the same amount of venom is injected in any bite, when a lot of snakes (all?) do inject less when the prey are smaller.

    There is value in more quickly incapacitating prey or predator (maybe rivals), but that doesn’t mean that the same dose used on a human would be used on a mouse. Not likely.

    Glen Davidson

  14. bonetired
    Posted February 3, 2018 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    “It says the continent has very few poisonous snakes…Oh, there’s a footnote.” His finger went down the page. “It says, ‘Most of them have been killed by the spiders.’ How very odd.”

    Terry Pratchett, The Last Continent.

  15. glen1davidson
    Posted February 3, 2018 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    There does seem to be one good reason for its intensely toxic venom, by comparison with most snakes. Wiki:

    Unlike other venomous snakes that strike with a single, accurate bite then retreat while waiting for the prey to die, the fierce snake subdues the prey with a series of rapid, accurate strikes. It is known to deliver up to eight venomous bites in a single attack,[6][29] often snapping its jaws fiercely several times to inflict multiple punctures in the same attack.[20] Its more risky attack strategy entails holding its prey with its body and biting it repeatedly. This injects the extremely toxic venom deep into the prey. The venom acts so rapidly that its prey does not have time to fight back.[74]

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inland_taipan

    But then why does it have this behavior? Because it has the venom that makes it safer, or was it poorer at tracking prey, or something else? I don’t know, but it does look like very toxic venom and its predatory behavior are linked.

    Glen Davidson

  16. Posted February 3, 2018 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    I have red-bellied black snakes in my garden; they are number 22 on the list. My friends and neighbors wonder why I dont kill them, but I was brought up in snake-free NZ, and studied zoology, so I like them being in the garden. They keep well away from me, but I have seen my chickens and guinea fowl run right over snakes that are sunning themselves, without the snakes minding. Guinea fowl are often touted as good snake alarms; this isn’t true at all! (but they are excellent raptor alarms).

  17. Barbara Radcliffe
    Posted February 3, 2018 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    As an example of juvenile snakes being more dangerous, a few years ago a bloke up in the Riverland saw a juvenile brown snake crossing the road (I don’t know why!) and rescued it. The ungrateful snake bit him. He thought that since it was so small the bits was not a problem. Wrong. He felt unwell during that night and went to hospital, but it it was too late, and died!
    I have a pickled death adder in my bookcase. A former student gave it to me — much more interesting than an apple…..

  18. Posted February 3, 2018 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), LD50 assays do not correspond very well at all to human fatalities or even serious bites. There are many more variables involved in a typical snake bite, including the fact that many snake venoms vary in composition geographically within the same species.

  19. Mark R.
    Posted February 3, 2018 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Maybe the potency of Australia’s snakes was due to an arms-race against some type of megafauna now extinct; one or more that had a hankering for snake meat. Australia had bird, reptile and marsupial megafauna, many of which were carnivorous. It is known that humans caused the majority (all?) of Australia’s megafauna extinctions, and this trait for extra potent venom would have (seemingly) evolved before humans arrived and began to flourish in Australia. So to summarize, perhaps the potency evolved as a defense mechanism not an offensive one. And the potency never got weaker in absence of a dangerous predator because it did indeed increase the success of killing and eating prey and thus increased fitness.

  20. Posted February 3, 2018 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    I’m guessing Oz has so many venomous snakes because it is mostly desert which rewards energy efficient predation like venom (as opposed to pursuit.) Of course if all those deadly snakes are in the jungles of Northern Oz, that would prove my theory wrong.

  21. glen1davidson
    Posted February 3, 2018 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    One more thing: “Most venomous” generally refers to the toxicity of the venom, not the efficiency of venom delivery. I knew that at least some of the extremely toxic snakes do not have very good delivery–small teeth, probably not hollow fangs. They tend to be “chewers,” as far as I know, not good at injection. So I looked to see if this were general, and one not especially impressive source says so–but it seems right to me, so I’m inclined to believe it:

    Also, most Australian snakes have tiny teeth. The fangs are a joke if you compare them to those of a viper for example. Australian snakes are very ineffective at delivering their venom.

    http://www.outback-australia-travel-secrets.com/australian_venomous_snakes.html

    Again, not what I’d call an authoritative source, but it comports with what I’ve heard about Australian snakes, especially the ones with the more toxic venom.

    There are some good at injecting venom, like the Australian Death Adder, but at least that one would seem to be a later arrival. One reason for the highly toxic venom of Australian snakes, then, would seem to be that they’re not that good at getting venom into the victim, evolving more toxic venom to make up for the relatively low amounts that they can get into their victims in a relatively short time.

    Glen Davidson

    • Chris Taylor
      Posted February 3, 2018 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

      I’ve also heard this said, in a First Aid course where we were told never to wash the site of a bite, as a lot of the venom remains on the skin, and can be tested to ensure that the correct antivenin is given. It is also a reason not to touch the would area, let alone “Suck out the poison” as you would transfer or ingest the toxin.

    • glen1davidson
      Posted February 3, 2018 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

      It turns out that the inland taipan, and I suppose other taipans, do have hollow fangs, but they aren’t very long, said to be 3.5 to 6.2 mm long. Coastal taipan fangs can be 13 mm, about half an inch.

      I also learned that the perentie, a large monitor lizard, eats the inland taipan, and it’s claimed that the king brown snake does too. The latter is said to be immune to the taipan’s venom, as is the mulga snake which eats young inland taipans. The mulga is said to be immune to most Australian snake venom.

      So there may indeed have been selection for more toxic venoms as snakes eating other snakes developed resistance. Of course if both the king brown snake and the mulga are actually immune, they wouldn’t be doing much to maintain taipan toxicity, but other predators may be doing so, like the perentie. Regardless of that, the way that inland taipans hold prey while envenoming same would by itself tend to keep the venom very toxic.

      Glen Davidson

  22. Craw
    Posted February 3, 2018 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Does Oz have particularly efficient snake predators? That might lead to particularly fast and effective venom.

    • yazikus
      Posted February 3, 2018 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

      I wondered the same. It brought to mind the toxicity of the rough skinned newt (whose predator, the garter snake, has a resistance to the toxin).

    • Chris Taylor
      Posted February 3, 2018 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

      Well, it’s said that having the Red-bellied Black around is a good thing, because it kills and eats the more venomous and more aggressive Eastern Brown… I don’t know if that ;s true, but anecdotally, since the red-bellies came to live on our place, we have not seen any browns here, though we did before they arrived.
      For the record, we have seen Eastern Browns, Red-bellied Blacks, Copperheads and a Red-naped snake on our property, as well as Tiger snakes and a Diamond Python nearby. There are probably Death Adders here too, but they are so cryptic they are hard to spot.

  23. Tom Besson
    Posted February 3, 2018 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    Bill Bryson wrote a book about Australia called ‘Down Under’. There was a laugh on every page (except for when he talked about the way aboriginal people were treated), but the one that cracked me up the most was a story about him visiting a used book store and coming across a book title called ‘Dangerous things in Australia that can kill you, Vol. 19’. Funny stuff.

  24. Michael Fisher
    Posted February 3, 2018 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    [1] Bob Cooper Snake Rescue & Relocation Pty Ltd of Western Australia [the name at the bottom of the list], might just have some interest in promoting Aussie snakes as the most deadly biters.

    [2] Classifying as…
    “Found in Australia”/”Not Found in Australia” is deceptive advertising. A snake that has Australia at the extreme of it’s range will appear in the Australia list for example.

    [3] Here is an alternative Wiki list that I found here VENOMOUS SNAKES & it’s based on the subcutaneous injection LD50 Saline column

    Inland Taipan, Inland, central Australia, 0.025 mg/kg
    Pope’s Viper, Coral Sea, Arafura Sea, Timor Sea, Tar River, and Indian Ocean, 0.044 Mg/kg
    Eastern brown snake, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, 0.053 mg/kg
    Yellow bellied sea snake, Tropical oceanic waters, 0.067 mg/kg
    Peron’s sea snake, Gulf of Siam, Strait of Taiwan, Coral sea islands 0.079 mg/kg
    Coastal Taipan, Australia, 0.105 mg/kg
    Many-banded krait, Mainland China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, 0.108 mg/kg
    Black-banded sea krait, eastern coast of the Malay Peninsula and Brunei, and in Halmahera, Indonesia, 0.111 mg/kg
    Mainland Tiger snake, Australia. 0.118 mg/kg
    Beaked sea snake, Tropical Indo-Pacific 1.125 mg/kg
    Black tiger snake, Australia, 0.131 mg/kg
    Western tiger snake, Australia 0.194 mg/kg

    [4] I note that on the map of Pangea Australia is pals with [from 12 o’clock & going clockwise]

    12: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Tibet = Perth & W.Oz
    3: Indonesia/Papua New Guinea = Darwin & N,Oz
    6: NZ = Sydney/Brisbane
    7 to 11 = Antarctica

    So watch out for ice snakes!!!

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 3, 2018 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

      I have the beaked Sea Snake in the wrong position perhaps – it’s listed as 0.1125 & I’ve guessed that’s a typo – should be 1.125

      • yazikus
        Posted February 3, 2018 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

        Kiddo had a sea krait snake cake for his birthday a couple of years ago. It was very cool.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted February 3, 2018 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

        Lucky kiddo. In my day it was all cake-shaped cakes 🙂

        • yazikus
          Posted February 3, 2018 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

          Last year we ordered a quail cake, and got a pheasant cake instead. I make sure to provide pictures these days 😉 His bday falls during my busy season, so getting a cake has always worked better than making one (and tastier too). He is lucky. This year, I’m making it.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted February 3, 2018 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

          I noticed your Rowan leaves around a hole by Andy Goldsworthy. I like his stone works – such as the St. Louis Stone Sea Installation. Great guy. This video is good stuff: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7sZv4_0Fxg

          • yazikus
            Posted February 3, 2018 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

            I love his work. Stunning, ephemeral and yet so tangible. I own the Rivers & Tides documentary, and watch it somewhat regularly. As a not-very-artistic person, it brings me great joy to watch him work. The way his hands work (in this clip, especially) is just amazing. I can’t imagine how cold it is, and what drives him to keep creating these fleeting works of natural abandon. (You might be the first person to pick up on the avi!)

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted February 3, 2018 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

              I’m into artists & arts/crafts people who work with/from nature or use nature as a setting/partner in the work – such as Gormley or every weaver, stone waller or yurt builder out there 🙂

              • yazikus
                Posted February 3, 2018 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

                Moi aussi. Kiddo, as it happens, has been working with stone-carvers (sandstone, in particular) for the last 6 months or so, every weekend. They do the carving/cutting old school, hand chiseled with wooden mallets and metal tools. Sort of an odd hobby, when other kids his age would be playing with action figures, playing video games or just generally running amok, but I dig it. Great for building fine motor skills, patience and an eye for the future. I hope he’ll continue in this endeavor.

    • phil
      Posted February 3, 2018 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

      Interesting that in your list the eastern brown is the only land snake found outside of Oz. All the rest seem to be sea snakes and have a wide range, which is unsurprising. AFAIK the same is true of blue ringed octopus, stonefish, box jellyfish and the salt water crocodile (about the only animal in Oz likely to eat people).

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted February 3, 2018 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

        Hi Phil. There’s also the many-banded krait – which is outside Oz & land-based

        Can you explain what you mean by this?:

        …All the rest seem to be sea snakes and have a wide range, which is unsurprising. AFAIK the same is true of blue ringed octopus, stonefish, box jellyfish and the salt water crocodile (about the only animal in Oz likely to eat people)

        Why you’ve listed those four creatures? Because they’re a threat to people & they’re found in Oz waters? And by “same is true” you mean those four have a wide range?

  25. Posted February 3, 2018 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    My tongue-in-cheek hypothesis to the prevalence of deadly animals in Austraila is that when god tossed Adam and Eve out of the graden, he moved all the deadly critters far away to give A&E a fighting chance.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 3, 2018 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

      Genesis 3:14, re the snake-Satan being ‘cursed’ to crawl on its belly, is the only bit of [marginally] correct evolutionary theory in the Bibble that I know of 🙂

      • Hemidactylus
        Posted February 3, 2018 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

        Except theologically it wasn’t Satan as set in Genesis. The biblical serpent parallels the serpent in Gilgamesh as tricking humans away from immortality involving a plant. Satan as adversary had a spotty career in the Tanakh before becoming better developed as embodiment of evil in NT and retrospectively blamed for the Fall.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted February 3, 2018 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

          Oh! I thought in the latest Bibbles Satan took on the form of the creature [reptile of some description] which god turned into a snake after Satan’s, harmless Garden of Eden prank. I haven’t touched the Bibble for years so I’m surely wrong.

          • Posted February 5, 2018 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

            The Genesis indeed never identifies the snake as Satan (and no evil spirits appear until much later books). It was Christians who spinned the story this way.

      • Posted February 5, 2018 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

        Also, in the same portion of the text, the correlation of painful birth with cognitive ability.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted February 5, 2018 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

          Didn’t know that. Thanks – I’ll check it out.

  26. phil
    Posted February 3, 2018 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Hey, maybe they just like the weather.

  27. Posted February 3, 2018 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  28. Posted February 3, 2018 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    Another reason for overly toxic venom might be to initiate the digestive process. Venom glands are simply modifications of other digestive organs, so by having powerful, cytotoxic, digestive venom this could allow better absorption of food or alleviate the need for other costly digestive organs.

  29. nicky
    Posted February 3, 2018 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    If amount of venom injected in an average bite is taken into account, the black mamba and the king cobra will end uphigher up the list, but it remains undeniable that Australia has more than it’s fair share of venomous snakes.
    I cannot really think why that is.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 3, 2018 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

      It’s a huge place with nearly all the climates one can imagine: rainforest, monsoon, savanna, cold desert, hot desert, Mediterranean, subtropical, oceanic, sub-arctic & tundra. All of this connected at various times in the recent past [10s of thousands of years] with a multitude of other island biospheres to the North & the Northwest. Perhaps that explains it. A land large enough to host the smallest known penguin to the South & tropical parrots to the North.

      • nicky
        Posted February 4, 2018 at 12:05 am | Permalink

        well that goes for most continents, so that can’t be the reason, if indeed so.

    • David Coxill
      Posted February 4, 2018 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

      Over here in GB we have only one venomous snake “The Common European Viper” .

      It can kill ,but rarely does .
      Only seen 2 in my life .

  30. nicky
    Posted February 3, 2018 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    Apparently it is deniable:

    • nicky
      Posted February 4, 2018 at 12:07 am | Permalink

      Sorry for that, I thought only videos embed. note the interest in part is in the answer by ‘Australianecologist’.

  31. kelskye
    Posted February 3, 2018 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    “Of course that raises the question of why it’s wasting venom if its prey are smaller than humans (which they are), and it could kill even a kangaroo dozens of times over with a single bite.”
    This is something I’ve never understood, because I can’t see what purpose being ultra-toxic would be if the delivery system generally puts in enough to be fatal to begin with. Reason dictates there must be an evolutionary advantage, but I could only guess that there was either an arms race between predator and prey, or that higher venom (and a generous delivery system) means a quicker kill and thus quicker access to the nutrients / not losing their prey to a rival.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 3, 2018 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

      Plus not all snake strikes will pierce deep for various reasons – so ‘overkill’ will pay off at times.

  32. David Coxill
    Posted February 4, 2018 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Why don’t those sneaky Australian snakes try and warn none prey animals like wot Rattlesnakes do in America ?

  33. Posted February 5, 2018 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    When we were in Oz, (traveling by bicycle and camping in a tent) we asked about snakes. They just said: Avoid them. There are a few non-venomous ones; but almost all are deadly venomous, so just avoid all if you can.

  34. Posted February 5, 2018 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    How are the Australian snakes related? Could they have one or a few common ancestors?

  35. Posted February 8, 2018 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    I just watched a clip from the tv series, QI (Quite Interesting) which asked the question “What is the most dangerous animal in Australia?”. Surprisingly the answer was not one of the snakes, box jellyfish, or spiders, but rather horses. More people in Australia are killed by horses, in one way or another, than any other animal apparently!


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