A venomous snake is a snake that uses modified saliva called venom, which is delivered through fangs in its mouth either to immobilize or kill its prey. (In contrast, most non-venomous snakes are constrictors which suffocate their prey.) Venomous snakes include several families of snakes and is not a formal classification group used in taxonomy.
Snakes are sometimes referred to as ‘poisonous snakes’, however the correct term to use is ‘venomous snakes’. Normally venom is harmless if ingested, however, if the venom is injected into some tissue it is toxic and the tissue around the site of injection and other parts of the body will suffer one way or another.
Venom is different from other poisons. Other poisons affect the body by entering the digestive system, while venom affects the body by getting into the blood stream and tissue. Drinking snake venom is not lethal as long as the venom does not enter the blood stream. The digestive fluids will break it down just like other food you eat.
There are around 600 species of snake that are known to be venomous. This is about a quarter of all snake species. The following groups of snakes can be aggressive and are able to inflict dangerous, even potentially lethal bites:
Snake Family Description of snake Atractaspididae (atractaspidids) Burrowing asps, mole vipers, stilleto snakes. Colubridae (colubrids) Most are harmless, but others have toxic saliva and at least five species, including the boomslang (Dispholidus typus), have caused human fatalities. Elapidae (elapids) Cobras, coral snakes, kraits, mambas, sea snakes, sea kraits and Australian elapids. Viperidae (viperids) True vipers and pit vipers, including rattlesnakes.
Below is a list of probably the most commonly known venomous snakes:
- Black Mamba Snakes (Dendroaspis polylepis)
- King Cobra Snakes (Ophiophagus hannah)
- Copperhead Snakes (Agkistrodon contortrix)
- Cottonmouth Snakes (Agkistrodon piscivorus)
- Rattlesnakes (Crotalus and Sistrurus)
- Sea Snakes (Elapidae)