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When it comes to speed, there will always several contenders and various opinions, but in the case of the Fastest Snake in the world, most experts agree. It’s the notorious Black Mamba. Known as the longest venomous snake in Africa and the second-longest venomous snake on the planet, this deadly snake also holds the Speed Title under his belt. Regarded as the fastest snake in the world, it can move at 17.6 feet (5.4 meters) per second and reach amazing speeds of 12 mph (19 KmH)!

This graceful snake can move extremely fast and with astounding agility. However, it can only maintain these high speeds for short distances, and there’s little truth in stories of Black Mambas moving faster than a galloping horse. In many cases when Black Mambas are sighted, their elongated slender body will sometimes creates the impression that it is moving much faster than it really is.

However, the Black Mamba is not only the fastest snake in terms of moving, it is also regarded as one of the fastest striking snakes in the world. This secretive snake will usually avoid danger whenever it can, and when confronted, the Black Mamba will sometimes spread its neck-flap like a Cobra, and expose its terrifying black mouth. However, further enticement by any enemy whatsoever will lead to a series of super-fast and deadly strikes. Thanks to its size, the Black Mamba can raise its head well above ground and might throw a big portion of its body upwards. This provides the snake with a great attacking range, even reaching a standing man’s chest.

fastest snake
Black Mamba. Photo by cd123

Many scientists believe the Black Mamba possesses the most highly evolved venom delivery apparatus in the world, regarded as one of the fast-acting venoms among venomous snakes. Experiments showed how its venom could kill a mouse in only 4.5 minutes. There are also two known cases of Black Mambas killing people in less than 20 minutes!

There’s no wonder why the Black Mamba is regarded as the most feared snake in Africa, where its bite is known as the “Kiss of death”. The Black Mamba’s extraordinary speed, combined with its fast-striking venom, make it one of the world’s most deadly snakes.

In 2011, a group of researchers from Macquarie University discovered that the Great Desert Skink lizard is probably the most social lizard in the world. The researchers claimed it is the first lizard on the planet known to form stable families that build and maintain underground homes and “villages”.

They jointly work with one another in building and taking care of their burrows. The adults usually excavate the tunnles, while the younger lizards dig the small “pop” holes. Couples are faithful to one another and always mate with the same skink lizard.

The studies of the desert skink lizards were conducted at the Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park in Northern Australia, the location of the world-renowned sandstone monolith, which stands 348 meters high and bears various inscriptions made by ancestral indigenous peoples. The rangers of the National Park monitor the threatened desert skink lizard, which belongs to the genus Liopholis, native to the south-western quarter of Northern Australia.

The Great Desert Skink Lizard is a medium-sized burrowing lizard, reaching average lengths of 7 inch (19 cm). It has very smooth and glossy scales, and is mostly rust-colored on the top of its body, with a vanilla-colored belly. It has fairly large eyes and a short snout.

Is it really the only Social Skink Lizard?

So far, there have been over 5,000 species of lizards that have been documented and studied all over the world, and from all these – only the Great Desert Skink Lizard has been found to live in tight social families that truly invest in building long-lasting homes. Their burrows can reach up to 40 feet (12 meters) in length, with as many as 20 entrances, and the skink lizard families will usually inhabit them for up to seven years.

This unique Skink lizard can pair with a mate for many years and raise several generations in one burrow constructed by the two parents. Old lizards will live in the same burrow with their siblings, regardless of age difference. Similarly to many humans around the world, these skink lizards can have one shared home for multiple generations of skinks, where all are contributing to finding food and maintaining their home.

The researchers also revealed that young skink lizards sharing the same home are almost all siblings, who decide to delay their home-leaving in order to care for their families. This family-like character is extremely unusual among lizards, making them possibly the most social lizards on the planet.

This research also collaborates with the old stories and knowledge of the ancient Aboriginal people, native to the area. They claim that Skink lizards indeed dig extensive burrows, then find their mates, return to the burrow and raise social families within these “homes”. They also claim that skink lizard parents usually remain faithful.

The research into the Great Desert Skink Lizard continues, as scientists believe these unique creatures can provide more insight into the evolution of family groups, and social behavior, which might also be relevant to humans.

Curious for more fascinating Lizard Facts and tales? Visit our Lizards Page!

cobras

snakebites
Photo by Marcelkudla

Most snakebites and fatalities by snakebites occur in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, with India reporting the most deaths from snakebites, more than any other country in the world. Just this last few days presented us with two extremely different tales of two different Cobra snakes. The first was a three-foot-long Cobra that was rescued from the coach guard area of Biju Patnaik International Airport in the Odisha Capital in East India, while the other was a 20-foot-long Cobra that was sadly shot dead by police in the city of Karachi, India.

According to police reports, the 20-foot-long Cobra had caused terror in the area of Karachi. Residents were fearing for their lives, and were not able to sleep peacefully. During the past three months, there were more than 1,300 cases of snakebites reported in Thar’s Government hospitals. Snakebites have also caused multiple deaths in various areas across India over the years. However, most snakes and most of the bites are harmless.

The vast majority of snakebites are actually caused by non-venomous snakes. And to make things clear, out of the 3,300+ species of snakes known in the world, only 15% are regarded as dangerous and capable of inflicting deadly snakebites.

Snakebites Stats: How many get bitten each year?

Unfortunately, reporting a snakebite is not mandatory in most regions of the world, leaving us with no accurate statistics and with no substantial ability to examine the frequency of snakebites in every country. However, according to certain reports, it is estimated that there approximately 5.4 million snakebites every year. Around 46% of these (2.5 million) are venomous, resulting in approximately125,000 deaths, each year.

When do most Snakebites happen? Who is the typical Victim? And more…

Summer is the time when snakes are most active and us humans are outdoors enjoying the sun. This naturally makes it the most prone time for snakebites. Following the same pattern, tropical regions which are hot and humid all year long – mostly report more snakebites than anywhere else. The typical victims are those who tend to be more outside, playing, which are typically males between 17-27. Sadly, due to their weaker immune systems, children and old people are the most likely to die from deadly snakebites.

Back to our more optimistic story that occurred in the Biju Patnaik International Airport: It appears that some tower workers spotted the deadly Cobra roaming around in the backyards of the coach guard office, not far from where all the planes are kept. The snake could have easily entered a plane through the lower openings and led to casualties. However, instead of calling Police to shoot it down, they smartly called the Snake Helpline, which came by, rescued the snaked and released it in its natural habitat.

Watching this riveting video of a Zebra Snake attacking an innocent Chameleon, makes you want to know more about this powerful Cobra. Well yes, the Zebra Snake, known also as Naja nigricincta, is a species of the Spitting Cobra of the genus Naja that belongs to the Elapidae family.

This unique Cobra had actually long been considered to be a subspecies of the black-necked spitting cobra (Naja nigricollis), but genetic differences have led researches to recognize it as a separate species. Don’t ask me if it was a necessary move, but that’s the situation.

The Zebra Snake and its Characteristics

There are two subspecies that are formally recognized under the Naja nigricincta:

1) The Naja n. woodi, also known as the Black Spitting Cobra, who’s solid black and can only be found in the hot desert terrains of southern Africa.
2) The Zebra Spitting Cobra, also known as the Western Barred spitting cobra, or just Zebra Snake, is native to parts of southern Africa, such as South Africa, Namibia and southern Angola. This beautiful cobra was given its name mainly because of the white or yellowish evenly spaced strips along its dark-brown to black body. The color of its ventral scales vary from white to orange, while its head and hood are black or dark brown.

Both subspecies of the Naja nigricincta are fairly small (smaller than the N. nigricollis), reaching lengths of less than 4.9 ft (1.5 m). The Zebra Snake can flatten its head and neck into a hood, in the same manner that other cobra species do.

Zebra snake
By Luca Boldrini [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The unique Venom of a Zebra Snake

It’s friendly name does not resemble a Zebra’s character at all. In Namibia, the Zebra snakes are known to torment villagers across the country, with dozens of reported bites every year. It seems that when it’s very hot and humid, these stripped cobras are somehow attracted to densely populated areas, where they attack from time to time, even humans.

The Zebra Snake can easily and accurately spit it’s powerful venom, which is highly cytotoxic and might cause massive hemorrhaging, necrosis and even paralysis. Interestingly, the anti-venom that is available – is ineffective in the treatment against a Zebra snake bite. The treatment that is mostly used involves radical excision around the site of the bite, which naturally brings about an ugly outcome. In case the venom makes it through to the bloodstream, then the problems intensify and the expensive treatment can last for many months, possibly a year or more.

There is one positive element in the nature of the Zebra Snake’s venom: It acts very slow, allowing the victim enough time to search and find the right medical treatment.

Enjoyed this post? Maybe you’d enjoy our “Cobras: All You Need To Know” Page!

And for the royalty among you – check out our elaborate King Cobra page: 

cobras

venomous snake
Photo by Jens Metschurat

On April 18th, 18-year-old Austin Hatfield from Wimauma (Florida) found out the hard way that it’s important to know how and if to kiss a venomous snake.

A few nights before the deadly kiss, Hatfield captured a Water Moccasin – an extremely venomous snake, also known as a Cottonmouth. Hatfield then put the snake inside a pillowcase, and calmfully slept with it. Unfortunately, the venomous snake managed to slither out of the pillowcase, waking up his 18-year old sleep mate.

Hatfield didn’t exactly know what to do, so he just grabbed the Water Moccasin and held it close to his chest. However, the venomous snake didn’t really appreciate the hug, and went for the KISS. It jumped forward and “kissed” Hatfield on his lip. Of course the “Kiss” was more of a bite, a venomous bite, which rushed Hatfield to the hospital.

According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Hatfield knew that the snake he caught was a Water Moccasin, and that it was a venomous snake. By that, he broke Florida laws, which require a permit for keeping venomous snakes and require facilities to be inspected. It also requires permit holders to have insurance plans to cover emergencies, like when a snake decides to “kiss” a human.

Hatfield is expected to recover completely from the snake “kiss”, but it’s still unclear if he will be charged for keeping a venomous snake without a permit.

Watch this news clip about the incident:

Just last november, a 9-year old boy from from Broward County (Florida), was playing outside with his brother and a friend, when he suddenly fell down right on top of a Water Moccasin Snake. It’s the world’s only semiaquatic viper, venomous and capable of delivering a painful and fatal bite. The Cottonmouth (or Water Moccasin) has a very heavy body. Juvenile Moccasins are dark and have reddish brown cross-bands on a brownish skin. When these snakes get old, they tend to become darker and thus blacker. An adult cottonmouth is usually two to four feet in size. I wouldn’t recommend getting close to this monster…

As with the 9-year old, the snake that managed to slither out of the pillowcase attacked due to its natural reflex, which was of course to defend itself, and so it did.

The Water Moccasin instantly bit both the 18-year old from Wimauma and the 9-year old from Broward. Luckily both kids did not get fatal bites, but I encourage parents to learn more about the snakes in your area and educate their kids about the huge dangers of playing with venomous snakes. The kids in this story survived, this time, but you better know your snakes…