What is Snake Venom?

The Inland Taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus) has the most toxic venom of any snake in the world yet it has never been recorded as being responsible for a fatality.
The Inland Taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus) has the most toxic venom of any snake in the world yet it has never been recorded as being responsible for a fatality.

Snake venom is one method adopted by snakes to immobilise their prey. Venom behaves like a modified form of saliva that is introduced into prey items via specialised hollowed teeth known as fangs. The purpose of venom is primarily to immobilise the prey and secondly to assist with the process of digestion.

Venom toxicity does not always correlate with the danger rating of a particular species . For example, the Inland Taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus) has the most toxic venom of all snakes in the world but there are several snakes that are considered more dangerous.

There are danger scores given to snakes which take into account five different factors which include:

  1. Venom toxicity
  2. Venom yield
  3. Fang length
  4. Temperament
  5. Bite frequency
There are several different types of toxins found in snake venom. Snake venom is usually a combination of several of these toxins. The main types of toxins are:
  • Neurotoxins – Paralysis of voluntary muscles
  • Haemotoxins – Destroy red blood cells
  • Coagulants – Cause blood clot in blood cells
  • Anticoagulants – Impede blood clotting
  • Cytotoxins – Destroy tissue
  • Hyaluronbidase activity – Increase the spreading factor of the venom