Lifestyle

The world's 10 deadliest animals - and they're all Aussies

WE Aussies often like to boast about how our deadly creatures are so much more deadly than anyone else's but you may be surprised at how true this is.

We have put together a list of some of the world's most venemous animals - all of which can be found in Australia and quite a few of which can be found on the Northern Rivers.

MORE: Six of nation's deadliest animals call Northern Rivers home

1. INLAND TAIPAN

Forget your fancy king cobras, rattlesnakes and death adders, for sheer venom power you can't go past the inland taipan. This is literally the most venomous land snake on the planet and would be one of the most dangerous animals in the world - if it wanted to be.

Fortunately, unless you are small enough for it to eat, it has live-and-let-live attitude to life. If you leave it alone, it'll leave you alone. Fortunately you won't find them on the Northern Rivers. They're native to south east Queensland and north east South Australia.

1.5 BELCHER'S SEA SNAKE

Also known as the faint-banded sea snake, the Belcher's sea snake is easily the most venomous snake in the world, but its gentle nature means its unlikely to bite you and, even if it does it's unlikely to release any venom, and even if it does release venom, its tiny fangs means it will have trouble getting through a wetsuit to puncture the skin.

That's just as well. The Belcher's sea snake's venom is 100 times more toxic than the inland taipan's, with a few milligrams of the venom potent enough to kill about 1000 humans. If you do receive a venomous bite, you're likely to be dead within 30 minutes. That said, it takes a lot of rough treatment to get a belcher's sea snake annoyed enough to bite, so remember to be kind to the incredibly venomous snake and you should be alright.

You're also extremely unlikely to come across a Belcher's sea snake anywhere on the Northern Rivers. They tend to prefer warmer climes than ours. You'll generally find them in the Indian Ocean and the Timor Sea.

 2. BEAKED SEA SNAKE

Beaked sea snakes have a bad reputation as being highly aggressive and easily provoked, which is unfortunate, as it is incredibly venomous. In face, a single bite from a beaked sea snake carries enough venom to kill 50 human beings.

The beaked sea snake is believed responsible for most human deaths from sea snake bites, biting most often when their human victims are wading in shallow, muddy waters. This is one of the reasons people are advised to stay clear of the sea foam that builds up on beaches after big storms.

That said, you'd be doubly unlucky to be bitten by one on the Northern Rivers. They tend to be found in coastal waters around northern Queensland and the Northern Territory as well as through the south east asian archipelago and along the coast from China to the Persian Gulf.

While the beaked sea snake appears a fair way down our list there is an active debate over whether it or the inland taipan is more deadly.

3. CONE SNAIL

They look so pretty, but don't be fooled. The cone snail carries a tiny harpoon packed with a cocktail of neurotoxins that can kill you dead. The snails usually use the harpoons to spear and quickly kill fish, which they then eat, but they work quite well on humans too and can quite easily cut through a wetsuit. One jab of that little harpoon carries enough neurotoxin to kill 10 people.

The snails can be aggressive and are known to have been responsible for about 30 human deaths. There are somewhere between 500 and 600 species of cone snail across the globe with 166 of those occurring in Australian waters.

On the up-side, being killed by a cone snail is a relatively peaceful way to go. Their venom includes a general pain killer, which drug companies are enthusiastically analysing for use in pharmaceuticals.

You can find these creatures anywhere around the Australian coast, although most of the Australian species are found in Queensland waters. If you see one of their beautiful shells on the beach, steer clear. It could very well still have a living and homicidal cone snail inside.

4. BOX JELLYFISH

The box jellyfish has a venom in its tentacles so potent it can kill a human being within five minutes. The creatures are particularly dangerous to small children.

Fortunately, box jellyfish don't appear as far south as the Northern Rivers. However, rising sea temperatures are already extending their seasons in tropical waters and could start encouraging them to appear further south.

If someone near you is stung, call an ambulance and be prepared to give CPR. The accepted wisdom is to douse the effected area in vinegar to kill any remaining tentacles, however there is research suggesting that could actually increase the amount of venom being released and make the situation even worse (more on that here). The Australian Resuscitation Council is currently investigating this research to see whether its guidelines should be changed. Until then it's saying to stick with vinegar.

5. EASTERN BROWN SNAKE

We may not have box jellyfish on the Northern Rivers, but eastern brown snakes we have in abundance.

Very few people on the Northern Rivers would be unaware of eastern brown snakes or of how dangerous they can be. However, did you realise they are actually the second-most venomous snake in the world after the inland taipan?

Bad-tempered browns are responsible for more human deaths than any other snake in the country. Fortunately that figure remains quite low. They're generally blamed for one or two deaths each year. A large part of that low death rate is due to the development of an antivenin for their venom. That's just as well, because they're not just common on the Northern Rivers - they live all across Australia's east coast and all the way inland to the desert. 

6. YELLOW-BELLIED SEA SNAKE

Yellow-bellied sea snakes are one of the most common sea snakes on the planet, although it's rare to see one even if you are in the ocean.

The snakes like to hide in drifts of flotsam where their distinctive colouring provides excellent camoflage. There they wait for fish to swim by so they can grab them for a feed. Several thousand snakes have been spotted in single large "slicks" of debris, according to the Australian Museum's website.

Their venom is incredibly toxic and the snakes have caused deaths in other countries, but none have been recorded in Australia.

7. COASTAL TAIPAN

The poor old coastal taipan may seem like it's coming in a fair way down our list of deadly creatures, but it still gets to be the third-most venomous land snake in the world so, you know, swings and roundabouts.

Unlike its more venomous cousin, the coastal taipan does live on the Northern Rivers. In fact, you'll find it across the whole of the east coast starting from northern NSW and running in an arc through to north Queensland and the Northern Territory.

We say you'll find them but, really, most likely you won't. Coastal taipans are shy creatures. They won't back down from a fight, but they'll generally scarper long before some foolish human is given the chance to offer them one. If you are unlucky enough to corner one you are in serious trouble. If they feel threatened and can't just slip away, coastal taipans can attack viciously and without warning, hurling itself at its target to deliver multiple bites in quick succession.

The Australian Museum warns the coastal taipan can strike so quickly its victim may be bitten several times before he or she even realises the snake is there. Fortunately there has been a good antivenin for coastal taipan bites for about 60 years. However, before that was discovered a bite from one of these animals was considered as good as a death sentence. Needless to say, if you are bitten, get medical help immediately.

8. MAINLAND TIGER SNAKE

Also known as the eastern tiger snake, this creature has built up a reputation as a menace to humans.

Like the coastal taipan, the tiger snake prefers discretion to valour, but will attack savagely if it feels cornered.

Unlike the coastal taipan, you won't find tiger snakes anywhere on the Northern Rivers. They prefer cooler climes than ours and prefer to hang out in Australia's south east and south west, as well as few islands in Bass Strait and off the southern coast.

9. SYDNEY FUNNEL WEB SPIDER

The funnel web is arguably the most feared of all Australia's deadly animals because it can get you at home and you might not even know it's there until it's too late.

Funnel webs are poor-tempered and quick to bite. Their venom contains a powerful neurotoxin that wreaks havoc with the human nervous system. The development of an anti-venom means it has now been many years since someone died from a funnelweb bite, but it's probably not something you would want to put to the test.

Although their best known, as their name suggests, for hanging out around Sydney, funnelwebs are great travellers and can be found across much of NSW and Victoria, including on the NSW North Coast.

If bitten, immediately apply the same pressure bandage and immobilisation you would use for a snake bite and seek medical help.

10. BLUE RINGED OCTOPUS

These little octopi are so tiny you could easily fit a half dozen of them in the palm of your hand, but even one of them packs enough poison to kill 26 adult humans.

The blue ringed octopus generally uses its powerful venom, a complicated neurotoxin about 1200 times more lethal than cyanide, to catch meals of fish, crabs, and prawns. However, it's just as happy to deliver its deadly bite to anything that threatens it, including any humans that lumber to close.

There's a decent chance you'll never even see the octopus that bit you - like all octopi they are camoflage experts. Most of the time you won't even realise you've been bitten until a good fiver or 10 minutes after it's happened - that's when the pain, the nausea and the sudden loss of vision kick in.

As yet there is no antivenin available for blue-ringed octopus bites. If you are bitten get a pressure bandage (even if that bandage is really a towel or shirt) on the bite and stay still. You may require mouth-to-mouth until a paramedic can get on the scene with an oxygen pack. The poison takes about 24 hours to flush from your system.

Topics:  animals, editors picks, environment




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