Elapid snakes are one of the two major groups of venomous snakes. Many species are of special importance to humans because of the danger they represent. Many of the most venomous snakes are elapids. People are killed by elapid snakebites, but the danger of a snake has just as much to do with behavior as it does level of toxicity. For example, the
Australian inland taipan, or fierce snake (Oxyuranus microlepi-dotus), has the most potent venom. Few people have been killed by this snake, however, because it inhabits inhospitable areas where people tend not to live. The taipan also is very shy and always retreats if it can. Similarly, seasnakes are highly venomous, but most are not inclined to bite, so the incidence of snake bites from seasnakes is extremely low. In contrast, some species of Asian cobra are less toxic but are common in densely populated regions, so people tend to encounter them more than they do more venomous snakes. Thus the incidence of fatal snake bites can be high. Australia has the greatest diversity of elapid snakes in terms of species number. Death from elapid bites is rare in Australia because of access to antivenin and widespread knowledge of the Sutherland pressure-immobilization first-aid technique (wrapping of the bitten area and splinting of the affected extremity). In parts of Africa, India, and southern Asia, death from elapid bite is a major medical problem.
1. Red-bellied black snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus); 2. Half-girdled snake (Simoselaps semifasciatus); 3. Brown snake (Pseudonaja textilis); 4. Death adder (Acanthophis antarcticus); 5. Yellow-bellied seasnake (Pelamis platurus); 6. Olive seasnake (Aipysurus laevis); 7. Bandy-bandy snake (Vermicella annulata). (Illustration by Dan Erickson)
1. North American coral snake (Micrurus fulvius); 2. Sea krait (Laticauda colubrina); 3. Turtle-headed seasnake (Emydocephalus annulatus); 4. Forest cobra (Naja melanoleuca); 5. Black-necked spitting cobra (Naja nigricollis); 6. King cobra (Ophiophagus hannah); 7. Tiger snake (Notechis scutatus); 8. Taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus); 9. Black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis). (Illustration by Dan Erickson)
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