Why the World's Most Venomous Snake Isn't the Deadliest

Ken Griffiths/iStock via Getty Images
Ken Griffiths/iStock via Getty Images /

The inland taipan is one reptile you don't want to aggravate. It's estimated that a single bite from this Australian snake packs enough venom to kill 100 adult men. But despite being the most venomous snake on Earth, the inland taipan isn't necessarily the deadliest. According to Australia's Billabong Sanctuary, zero deaths from the species have been recorded.

The inland taipan lives on the cracking clays and loams of south-western Queensland and north-eastern South Australia. Humans rarely pass through this arid environment, but when they do, the snakes don't bother them. The shy serpent spends most of its time out of the harsh sun, only coming to the surface to bask and look for food in the early morning hours. Reptile keepers who handle the snakes describe them as gentle and easy-going creatures.

Like most animals, inland taipans will fight back when threatened. They warn intruders to back off by scrunching the upper halves of their bodies into an S-shape and pointing their heads at their target. If the threat doesn't leave, they will strike—either once or multiple times. An inland taipan bite can cause headache, abdominal pain, vomiting, unconsciousness, and paralysis. One component of the venom that makes it so lethal is called a hyaluronidase enzyme. This encourages the body to absorb the toxins quickly.

The median lethal dose of inland taipan venom for mice is just 0.025 milligrams per kilogram—making it the most potent of any snake species. The inland taipan evolved to prey on small mammals, but it is dangerous to humans as well. If it doesn't receive immediate medical attention, one bite can lead to death.

Though rare, attacks on people do happen. An Australian teenager was bitten by his pet inland taipan while trying to place it in its enclosure in 2017. He was taken to a hospital in time and fortunately survived, but his story is a lesson that you probably shouldn't bring the world's most venomous snake into your home—no matter how docile it seems to be.