OK, so if I get killed by a snake, it wouldn’t really matter what happens to my body afterward. Yet, the notion that my flesh would melt away following the snake bite is truly disturbing to me — it is like adding insult to injury.
What am I talking about? Well, there is this island right off the coast of Sao Paolo in Brazil, called Ilha de Queimada Grande, which plays host to the world’s deadliest snake — the golden lancehead viper.
Understandably, the island is uninhabited by humans and no one shows much interest in visiting, save for a few scientists given permission to study its famous serpents each year, according to the Smithsonian.
Unfortunately, the island attracts other visitors, with rather more materialistic interests. Poachers are known to visit the island regularly, hunting down the golden lancehead viper and selling them on the black market, where their price can be as high as $30,000.
Scientists are baffled by the viper’s deadliness — why do they need such a potent poison, even as otherwise they are not all that different from their brethren on the mainland? The leading theory is that when 11,000 years ago sea levels rose and created Ilha de Queimada Grande by separating it from Brazil, the snakes on the island were left with limited sources of food save for migrating birds.
And as most venoms take a while to act, often days, by the time the bird is killed, they might have moved elsewhere and be eaten by someone else. So the snakes were forced to evolve an incredibly potent venom that could kill prey almost instantly. So potent, in fact, that it is five times as strong as that of other snakes and can even melt human flesh. (Scroll down for the videos.)
1. Pictured is Ilha da Queimada Grande, an island 20 miles (32 kilometers) off the coast of Sao Paolo in Brazil. Visitors to the island are prohibited by the Brazilian government owing to the several thousand resident deadly snakes known as golden lancehead vipers, which have venom that is potent enough to melt human flesh.
2. The golden lancehead viper (Bothrops insularis), pictured, is only found on this one island. Here University of Sao Paulo researcher Marcio Martins holds one snake while watching another. The snakes have been known to kill humans in the past, including a hapless fisherman who stumbled across the island.
3. Ilha de Queimada Grande, understandably nicknamed ‘Snake Island’, is a piece of land 4.6 million square feet (430,000 square meters) in size found 20 miles (32 kilometers) off the coast of Sao Paolo, Brazil.
4. The island is believed to have become separated from the Brazilian mainland 11,000 years ago when sea levels rose, which forced the native snakes to evolve their potent venom in order to catch airborne prey. The island is devoid of almost any human visitors, save for a few scientists, poachers and the navy on occasion.
5. The golden lancehead viper’s venom can melt human flesh.
6. The golden lancehead viper has the world’s strongest venom.
7. Lying in wait.
And here are the videos:
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