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17 Species of Elapids - Amazing Snakes

Updated on December 4, 2014
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The hollow fangs allow some snakes, like spitting cobras, to spray their venom several feet.
The hollow fangs allow some snakes, like spitting cobras, to spray their venom several feet. | Source

What are Elapids?

Elapids are a group of venomous snakes found in tropical and subtropical regions of the world, in nearly every continent except Europe and even in the oceans in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. All elapids are characterized by hollow, fixed fangs through which they inject venom. There are currently 325 recognized species of elapids.

Terrestrial Elapids are elapids that live on land. Almost all of these snakes have long and slender bodies with smooth scales, a head covered with large shields and not always distinct from the neck, and eyes with round pupils. They resemble coloubrids, or common snakes , but are indeed very venomous. Exceptions to all these generalizations occur, for example, the Death Adder (#12 - Northern Death Adder), which is short and fat with rough scales and a broad head.

Sea Snakes are snakes that have adapted to live aquatically. They are characterized by their flattened tails that propel them through the water and their ability to excrete salt. They also give birth to live young rather than lay eggs. Sea Kraits, however, have to go on land to lay their eggs; they are the least adapted of all the aquatic snakes.

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Coagulants (Warning: Blood)

A Quick Look at Venom

Before going to the list of 17 species of Elapids, there are some important points to mention about different snake venoms that are mentioned under each species.

Neurotoxins are toxins that act on the nervous system.

Cytotoxins have toxins that directly affect the cells.

Cardiotoxins cause heart problems, usually irreversible.

Myotoxins are small peptides found in snake venom (usually rattlesnakes; some elapids) that causes severe muscle necrosis, or death of the muscle tissue.

Hemolytic means that it destroys the red blood cells (see red-bellied blacksnake #13)

Coagulants mean that it causes the blood to coagulate, or clot. See the video above for a visual representation.

Taipoxins (See Inland Taipan # 16) are the most lethal neurotoxin isolated from any snake venom to date. The victim dies from asphyxia caused by respiratory paralysis.

#1 - Arizona Coral Snake

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This picture was taken from another great hub. It shows a close up of the Arizona Coral Snake with labels.
This picture was taken from another great hub. It shows a close up of the Arizona Coral Snake with labels. | Source

Venom Facts

Production of coral snake antivenom in the United States has ceased because it is not profitable.

New World Coral Snakes possess some of the most potent venoms of any North American snake, but since they are so reclusive, bites from a coral snake are rare. There are roughly 15-25 reported bites each year. However, because there were so few bites, the production of coral snake anti venom has stopped, and the last supply available expired in 2010.

Quick Facts - Arizona Coral Snake

Max Length - 2 feet

Diet - Blind and Black-headed snakes, lizards

Usually only active at night unless it is overcast outside

Lays 2-3 eggs during the summer

Although this snake is relatively small, that doesn't make it any less dangerous. It is brightly colored with broad alternating bands of red and black separated by narrower bands of bright white or yellow. The bands completely encircle the body, but they are paler on the belly. It is found in central and southern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, and Sinaloa (Western Mexico).

When spotting a coral snake, you may have heard of the rhyme "Red touch yellow, kill a fellow, red touch black, venom lack". This is a good rhyme for snakes in the US, but in other regions of the world, this is not always the case. The best way to identify a coral snake is:

  1. A very blunt head that is black until just behind the eyes
  2. Bands completely encircle the body
  3. Yellow or white bands occur on both sides of the red bands

#2 - Bandy-bandy

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This map shows the distribution of the Bandy-bandy in Australia.
This map shows the distribution of the Bandy-bandy in Australia. | Source

Venom Facts

Very few bites have been reported. These have not been fatal.

The Bandy-bandy uses its venom primarily against its prey, the blind snakes. They are considered harmless to humans and there are no known deaths from Bandy-bandys.

Quick Facts - Bandy-bandy

Max Length - 2 feet

Weak venom, but still venomous

Diet - blind-snakes

Lives solely in Australia

The Bandy-bandy is a smooth, glossy, striped snake that lives in Australia. Although it has venom, it's a relatively harmless snake because of it's temperament and it's small size. It is found in a large span of vegetation types, from the coastal bushes to the drier outback scrubland. It is a nocturnal snake that burrows in the ground, only coming out at night to feed. These snakes are not often found by people, but can sometimes be caught by house pets and caught in backyard pools.

It's stripes are used to confuse predators. It's hard to tell the difference between the head and tail from a distance. The number of rings vary both geographically and between males and females.

#3 - Blue Malaysian Coral Snake

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The bright orange/red underbelly of the snake is used to warn against predators.
The bright orange/red underbelly of the snake is used to warn against predators. | Source

Venom Facts

The blue Malaysian coral snake's venom is neurotoxic.

The bite initially has few to no symptoms, but after a few minutes, numbness may occur near the bite area. Breathing may become difficult as the bite will result in death by respiratory failure if gone untreated. The venom glands in this snake are unusually long, going through one third of its body.

Quick Facts - Blue Malaysian Coral Snake

Max Length - above 5 feet, but 5 feet is the average adult size

Diet - almost exclusively other snakes, but can eat lizards, frogs and birds

New World Coral Snake

Very venomous - has caused human fatalities


The Blue Malaysian Coral Snake is a medium-sized snake characterized by a blue body with a bright orange tail and head. It is found in is found in Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, where there are moist places for the snake to survive. In the daytime, it tends to avoid human contact, but at night, it is much more active, with most human bites happening to those who unknowingly cross these snakes. When it feels threatened, it shows its red underbelly to its attackers as a warning.

#4 - Egyptian Cobra

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This map shows where the Egyptian Cobra is found.
This map shows where the Egyptian Cobra is found. | Source

Venom Facts

Egyptian Cobra venom contains Neurotoxins and Cytotoxins.

The venom first attacks the nervous system, stopping the nerve signals from being transmitted to the muscles. At later stages, the nerve signals stop being transmitted to the heart and lungs as well. The final cause of death is respiratory failure.

Quick Facts - Egyptian Cobra

Genus Naja

Max Length - 9 feet, but most are between 4 and 6 feet

These snakes live in areas inhabited by humans

Nocturnal, but basks in early morning sun

Can live over 20 years old

Diet - rats, mice, birds, frogs, toads

The Egyptian cobra, one of the longest snakes in the naja genus, is found in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. It is best recognized by its head and its broad hood surrounding its neck. Most Egyptian Cobras are brown with lighter or darker mottling with a tear-drop mark just below the eye. However, these snakes can also be copper colored or grey-brown, and the cobras in Northwestern Africa, like Morocco, can be entirely black. Most snakes have splotches of cream on their underbellies and are often found near water.


#5 - False Water Cobra

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In the False Water Cobra, the fangs are located in the back of the mouth instead of the front like most other snakes.
In the False Water Cobra, the fangs are located in the back of the mouth instead of the front like most other snakes. | Source

Venom Facts

The False Water Cobra's venom is not weak enough to kill a human.

This large snake does more mechanical trauma than venomous trauma. Cases of local envenomation and hypersensitivity have occurred, but most incidents have gone unreported. Bites can cause painful swelling and bruising, but nothing too severe as this snake is commonly kept as a pet.

Quick Facts - False Water Cobra

Max Length - Usually 6.5 feet, but can reach 9 to 10 feet by maturity

Fangs located in the back of the mouth

Venom is weak, but still dangerous

Diet - fish and amphibians mostly, but also eats small mammals


The False Water Cobra, while having a weak venom compared to true Cobras, still has the hollow, venomous fangs of an elapid. It is one of the heaviest species, though not extremely large or wide. The common name false water cobra is an allusion to the snake's ability to flatten its neck, similar to a cobra, as a defensive reaction to make it look larger and more intimidating. However, unlike the cobra, which rears itself into a vertical position, the false water cobra stays in a horizontal position when it hoods. It also can flatten more than its body than its neck, which isn't possible for a true cobra.

This snake is found in South America, especially in moist, topical climates in Brazil and Bolivia. It lives predominantly in areas with a lot of water, hence its name, the false water cobra.

#6 - Indian Cobra

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The Indian Cobra is the most common snake that is charmed by Snake Charmers.
The Indian Cobra is the most common snake that is charmed by Snake Charmers. | Source

Venom Facts

Indian Cobra venom contains NEUROTOXINS and CARDIOTOXINS.

The Indian Cobra is one of the most deadly snakes in Southeast Asia to humans. The venom acts on the synaptic gaps of the nerves, causing paralysis. This paralysis can lead to respiratory and cardiac arrest. The most severe symptoms happen relatively fast; it only takes 30 minutes to two hours for the venom to take effect.

Quick Facts - Indian Cobra

Max Length - 8 feet, but most are 6 feet

Part of the "Big Four" - inflicts the most snake bites in India

Diet - rodents, frogs, toads, other snakes

Much maternal care compared to other snakes

Lays between 8 and 45 eggs; usually 12-20

The Indian Cobra, also called the spectacled cobra, is a large, highly venomous snake that lives in the rice fields and rain forests of Southeast Asia and India. Aside from biting its victims, the Indian Cobra also spits venom, which, if it entered the victim's eyes, can cause severe pain and permanent damage. By putting pressure on the venom glands, the snake spits its venom from as far away at 6.5 feet. Like other cobras, it has a hood on the back of it's neck, but the pattern is unique to the Indian Cobra.

#7 - King Cobra

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Baby King Cobras hatching from their eggs.
Baby King Cobras hatching from their eggs. | Source

Venom Facts

The venom of the King Cobra is primarily neurotoxic.

Venom initially starts to attack the central nervous symptoms, with starting symptoms including severe pain, blurred vision, vertigo, drowsiness, and paralysis. If enough venom is injected, Cardiovascular failure can result, which leads to a coma. The primary cause of death, like many other snakes, is respiratory failure.

Quick Facts - King Cobra

Max Length - 18 feet, usually 10 to 13 feet.

Largest Cobra in the World

Name "King" comes from the fact that it eats other snakes

Diet - mostly other snakes

Lays 20-40 eggs

Much care of the young compared to other snakes


The King Cobra is found mostly in Southeast Asia and India. It is the largest Cobra in the world and there are many superstitions surrounding it, however, it is not of the genus naja like other cobras, it has its own genus. It is differentiated from other cobras by its size, and the fact that it has a chevron pattern on its body instead of stripes. It has a fearsome reputation, but it does not like human contact and will avoid it if possible. This snake has two small, hollow fangs at the front of its mouth that inject venom into its prey. It is more common in the daytime than at night, which makes it a diurnal species.

#8 - Krait

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This picture shows a close-up of the krait's tail, which is flattened to help it swim.
This picture shows a close-up of the krait's tail, which is flattened to help it swim. | Source

Venom Facts

Krait venom is neurotoxic.

The venom affects the ability of neuron endings to properly release the chemical that sends the message to the next neuron. After bitten, the victim initially feels paralyzed, then cramps, tremors, and spasms may occur, which lead to a larger state of paralysis. They may not be felt in the body at the same time. Frequently, little or no pain occurs at the site of a krait bite, but unless treated with anti venom, a krait bite can kill a human in 6 to 12 hours.

Quick Facts - Krait

Max Length - 7.5 feet, but most are 4-6 feet long

Diet - mice, lizards, also eats other kraits

Primarily preys on other snakes

Lays eggs, usually 12 to 14 at a time

It is one of the most venomous land snakes in the world, is able to kill a human within 12 hours.

The Krait is a large venomous snake found in Southeast Asia. It has a raised backbone, which gives its body an unusual triangular shape. Temperamentally, it tends to be docile during the day, but more aggressive at night. Most kraits are covered in smooth, glossy scales that are arranged in bold patterns of black and light colored areas. Their tail tapers to a point like a sea snake, because it spends much time in the water, although it is not entirely aquatic. There are 13 subspecies of Krait; all are found in Asia and on the islands of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.


#9 - Mamba (Black)

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A black mamba's sharp fangs are pulled back before milking its venom.
A black mamba's sharp fangs are pulled back before milking its venom. | Source

Venom Facts

Black Mamba venom is dendrotoxic (neurotoxic).

The venom of a Black Mamba surges through the body extremely fast, being the most rapidly spreading venom of any snake. It has the highest fatality rate of any snake in the world, and its most likely victims are field workers in Africa.

Quick Facts - Black Mamba

Max Length - 14 feet

Black Mambas breed only once a year

Lives both on ground and in trees

Diet - birds, rodents, tree-dwelling species

Lays 10-25 eggs at a time


These highly venomous, large-eyed snakes live primarily on the ground and in the trees in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Black Mamba is one of the longest and most dangerous snakes on the continent, and it is one of the most aggressive species of snake. Behaviorally, it would rather flee than fight, but that doesn't stop it from attacking a person if it feels the need to do so. There are not many known predators for Black Mambas, even though snakes are a common food source for many animals. The primary predator for these snakes is in fact, humans.

#10 - Mamba (Green)

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A close up image of a Green Mamba's dorsal scales.
A close up image of a Green Mamba's dorsal scales. | Source

Venom Facts

Green Mamba venom is neurotoxic and cardiotoxic. It is one of the most deadly snakes in the world.

The mortality rate for a bite from this snake is very high, but the exact rate is unknown due to a large venom variation between different members of this species. At the site of the bite, it is common for the entire limb or appendage to swell up.

Quick Facts - Green Mamba (Eastern)

Max Length - 7 feet, but most are around 4 or 5

Diet - birds, lizards, rodents, and frogs

Lives up to 14 years (captivity)

Female lays 10-15 eggs


The green mamba is one of the smaller species of elapid and is the smallest Mamba, but that doesn't make it any less dangerous. They live in most East African countries like Kenya and Zimbabwe, mostly in wooded areas with a lot of trees. The scales on its back are larger than the lighter green underbelly, helping it blend in with the trees that it calls its home.

Green Mambas are less aggressive than the infamous Black Mamba, but their venom is still deadly and neurotoxic. Its venom not only harms predators that threaten it, but it also aids in digesting food.

#11 - Mozambique Spitting Cobra

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Venom Facts

The Mozambique Spitting Cobra's venom causes blindness.

This only occurs if the venom enters the eye, however this snake is considered one of the dangerous snakes in Africa. Its bite causes tissue destruction locally.

Quick Facts - Mozambique Spitting Cobra

Max Length - 5 feet

Average Length - 3.5 to 4 feet

Lives near bodies of water

Diet: other snakes, birds, eggs, rodents, amphibians, insects

The Mozambique Spitting Cobra is a dangerous cobra that is native to Sub-Saharan Africa. It can spit is venom a few feet and its venom is very potent, causing severe damage to the bite wound and can cause blindness if spat into the eye. This snake eats amphibians, insects, birds, eggs, and other snakes. It lays roughly 10 to 22 eggs at a time.

Check out this cool video of a Mozambique Spitting Cobra in Action!

#12 - Northern Death Adder

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This lightly colored Death Adder raises its tail to mimic a caterpillar.
This lightly colored Death Adder raises its tail to mimic a caterpillar. | Source

Venom Facts

Death Adder venom is neurotoxic.

A death adder's bite can cause paralysis initially, but after six hours, the venom can cause a complete respiratory shut down. The use of anti venom can reverse the symptoms of envenomation. Before the introduction of anti venom, roughly half of all death adder bites were fatal. Nowadays, deaths are much rarer and the progression of envenomation symptoms is slow.

Quick Facts - Northern Death Adder

Max Length - 3 feet

Diet - birds, amphibians, small mammals

Among the most venomous snakes in the world

Mature in 2-3 years

These snakes bury themselves in substrate - not actively seen in the day

The Northern Death Adder lives in the eucalyptus forests and woodlands of northern Australia. When hunting its prey it lifts the brightly colored tip of its tail and slowly waves it, mimicking the movement of a caterpillar. As the unsuspecting prey approaches the lure, the snake pounces on it with a quick strike.

Death adders are viper-like in appearance, but unlike other adders, which are members of the viperidae family, these snakes are more closely related to cobras. They have short, robust bodies, triangular shaped heads, and small sub ocular scales. Their pupils are vertical, and their fangs are longer and more mobile than most other elapids, though not as long as the fangs on most vipers.

#13 - Red-bellied Blacksnake

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Venom Facts

The venom of the red-bellied black snake is neurotoxic, myotoxic, hemolytic, and is a coagulant.

As dangerous as this venom is, it is rarely fatal since the snake usually injects very little amounts of venom at a time. It is still imperative to seek medical attention after being bitten by this snake.

Quick Facts - Red-bellied Blacksnake

Max Length: 6 feet but most are 4 to 5 feet long

Most active during the day

Diet - Frogs, small mammals, reptiles, other snakes

Gives birth to live young.


The Red bellied blacksnake is a fairly long snake with dark black, glossy scaled on its dorsal half with a bright red or pink underbelly. It lives on the coast of Australia and can most often be found near bodies of water. While it is most active during the day, it is not always found out in the open. Sometimes it prefers to live under crevices of rocks, logs, and other shady areas.

The female snakes give birth to live young in sacs, and the baby snakes emerge from these sacs very shortly after birth.

#14 - Rinkhal

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This rinkhal plays dead to trick predators.
This rinkhal plays dead to trick predators. | Source

Venom Facts

Rinkhal venom is neurotoxic and cytotoxic.

It is a spitting cobra, which aims its venom at the eyes of the victim. It does not cause blindness, but can cause extreme pain. Other symptoms like drowsiness, vertigo, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain can also occur.

Quick Facts - Rinkhal

Max Length - 4 feet

Average Length - 2.5 to 3.5 feet

Diet - mostly toads, but sometimes eats small mammals, amphibians, and other reptiles

Gives birth to live young.

The Rinkhal is considered to be a "true spitting cobra". However, it is not considered as vicious as other cobras, so bites are infrequent. It is capable of spitting its venom roughly 6 feet, and it raises its hood when it feels threatened. Sometimes it plays dead in order to fool attackers.

A Rinkhal's scales are distinct from those of true cobras in that they are ridged and keel-like. Coloration varies, but most rinkhals are darkly colored with a few light colored bands on their throats. They are found in Southern Africa.

#15 - South American Coral Snake

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Venom Facts

Coral snake venom is neurotoxic.

The venom causes respiratory paralysis and suffocation.

Quick Facts - South American Coral Snake

There are roughly 60 species of venomous coral snakes in Central and South America.

Most of these snakes are quite small, but very venomous nonetheless.


Coral snakes are not very aggressive and they tend to burrow in the ground. Bites from these snakes are rare, but if bitten, one must treat the bite immediately because the venom is extremely potent and fast-acting.

To read more about South American Coral Snakes and to receive a list, check out the link below.


#16 - Taipan (Inland)

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Source

Venom Facts

The inland Taipan is the most venomous snake in the world. It contains Taipoxins and protease enzymes.

The most venomous snake in the world is based entirely on its damage against mice. All bites from this snake since the introduction of anti venom have been survivable.

Max Length - 8 feet

Average Length - 6 feet

Are lighter colored in the summer and darker colored in the winter

Diet - rodents, small mammals, birds

Lays roughly 12 to 24 eggs

Although the Inland Taipan is the most venomous snake in the world, it isn't an aggressive snake and would rather flee than fight.

When it kills its prey, instead of delivering just one bite, it strikes several times; sometimes it bites a victim seven times until death occurs.

The Taipan's reproductive rate depends entirely on the amount of food available. If there is not enough food available, then the taipan will reproduce less that it would if food was aplenty.

#17 - Yellow-bellied Sea Snake

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This map shows the locations where yellow-bellied sea snakes are found.
This map shows the locations where yellow-bellied sea snakes are found. | Source

Venom Facts

Yellow-bellied sea snake venom is potent, but no human fatalities have been recorded.

The yellow-bellied sea snake is common in Australia, but bites are very rare due to the snake's docile nature. However, the venom is still extremely potent, damaging skeletal muscles and eventually leading to myoglobnuria, or blood in the urine due to destroyed muscle.

Quick Facts - Yellow-bellied Sea Snake

Max Length -

Only member of its genus, Pelamis

Gives birth to live young

Helpless on land

Only sea snake to reach Hawaii


The Yellow-bellied sea snake lives in the waters of Australia where it hunts fish in the shallow tide pools near the ocean. It can also be found all across the Pacific and Indian Oceans (see map to the right). It the most widely distributed sea snake and is capable of living and giving birth entirely in the open sea, not having to live on land at all.

The body of the snake is almost always black on top with a yellow belly, with alternating black and yellow on the long, flattened tail that aids in swimming.

Check Your Elapid Knowledge!


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