A total of over 3,000 species of snakes inhabit every continent except Antarctica. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 600 species are venomous and 200 are considered truly dangerous to humans. On the short list are those snakes that are the swiftest, the most aggressive and the most toxic. Capable of inflicting maximum damage, they are the world's deadliest snakes.
Africa is home to some of the deadliest snakes on earth. Puff adders, although not Africa's most venomous snakes, are responsible for the most deaths. This is due to their presence in densely populated areas and their tendency to sunbathe along heavily trafficked footpaths. Black mambas are the fastest snakes alive and among the most dangerous. Intensely aggressive, they deliver not one but a series of sharp, deadly bites. Their venom can kill a human in under 30 minutes. Other deadly snakes found in Africa include the boomslang, saw-scaled viper, desert horned viper, forest cobra and gaboon viper.
The Land Down Under
Australia and its surrounding islands, sometimes called the Oceania region, are home to a host of deadly snakes. Three members of the lethal genus Taipan -- the inland, coastal and Papuan taipan snakes -- inhabit the region. Taipan snakes possess highly toxic venom that is fatal unless treated almost immediately with antivenin. Aggressive tiger snakes, found primarily in southern Australia and Tasmania, deliver toxic bites that, without treatment, are fatal 60% of the time. Other deadly snakes living in Oz include the eastern brown snake, the king brown snake, Dubois's sea snake and the Australian brown snake.
A variety of deadly snakes populate the expansive Asian continent. Russell's vipers possess acutely lethal venom for which there is no specific antidote. Aggressive and prone to living among human populations, they are the leading cause of snakebite death in Sri Lanka and responsible for 90% of snakebite fatalities in Burma. King cobras, found throughout southeast Asia, can take down an elephant with one painful, toxic bite. According to Environmental Graffiti, herpetologists have labeled hooknosed sea snakes "cantankerous and savage." Their venom is eight times more lethal than that of a cobra. Other lethal snakes in Asia include the common krait, common cobra, blue krait and beaked sea snake.
Central and South America
Common lancehead and barba amarilla ("yellow beard") snakes are, according to Reptile Gardens, the two most lethal snakes in Central and South America. These vipers are aggressive, possess highly toxic venom and are responsible for many snakebites in their respective regions. South American rattlesnakes, native to Brazil but now widespread, deliver painful, extraordinarily toxic bites and are by all accounts bad-tempered. Other lethal snakes in Central and South America include the Mexican west coast rattlesnake, the bushmaster and the golden lancehead.
Although not as lethal as their counterparts on the other side of the globe, some North American residents deserve honorable mention. Tiger rattlesnakes deliver the most toxic venom of any rattler. Western diamondback rattlesnakes are both venomous and surly, a dangerous combination. The venom of prairie rattlesnakes is not as lethal as that of other rattlers, but they are responsible for the largest percentage of snakebites in the U.S. Other venomous inhabitants of North America are the Mojave rattlesnake, coral snake and timber rattlesnake.
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Yvette Sajem has been a professional writer since 1995. Her work includes greeting cards and two children's books. A lifelong animal advocate, she is active in animal rescue and transport, and is particularly partial to senior and special needs animals.