Elapidae – Elapids

Paralyzing snakes— cobras, mambas, kraits, sea snakes and allies

Comprising some of the world’s deadliest snakes, represents one of the two main families of venomous serpents, the other being Viperidae. Elapids are characterized by their permanently erect short fangs, a stark contrast to the longer, foldable fangs of vipers and pit vipers. These specialized fangs are designed to inject venom into their prey or potential threats efficiently.

One of the most striking differences between elapids and vipers lies in the chemical composition and effects of their venoms. Elapid venoms primarily consist of neurotoxins, which target the nervous system and can induce paralysis if not promptly treated with antivenom. This neurotoxic effect results in rapid incapacitation of prey and is one of the hallmarks of elapid envenomation.

In contrast, vipers’ venoms are predominantly cytotoxic, exerting localized effects that cause tissue damage and necrosis at the site of the bite. While both elapids and vipers are formidable predators in their own right, a confrontation between the two would likely result in mutual mortality if each were to envenomate the other.

Among the most notorious members of the Elapidae family is the black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis), often regarded as Africa’s “kiss of death.” Renowned for its speed, agility, and potent venom, the black mamba is considered one of the deadliest snakes on the planet.