Topic: Myth? Baby snakes are more poisonous than an adult snake?

Myth?  Are baby snakes are more poisonous than an adult snake?

I have heard this from several 'non-herp' people.  They said that a baby snake (poisonous) can not control how much poison they inject which makes them more dangerous.  Any truth to that?



Re: Myth? Baby snakes are more poisonous than an adult snake?

Venomous snakes are no more toxic as babies than they are as adults. It is true, as babies they are just learning to control the flow of venom when needed it doesnt make them any more dangerous than adult. Think about the size correlation between an adult and a baby. If a baby gives you all its got, well now thats probably not a whole lot is it? Depending on the species of course and the venom components, it can be a lethal bite no matter what size the snake.

Anja Buffalo


Re: Myth? Baby snakes are more poisonous than an adult snake?

I have heard this many times. I have recently read an article on the subject (sorry cant remeber the source)
there was little or no difference in the toxicity of the venom from a younger to an older snake of the same species, they did find however, that a hatchling for its size relative to an adult, does, the majority of the time, inject more of its venom   than a mature animal.

Mater Artium Necessitas



Re: Myth? Baby snakes are more poisonous than an adult snake?

It's an interesting conversation that, unfortunately, is based around a big myth perpetrated by laymen-women every day. I was talking to a friend of mine the other day who's helping with some research on one of the Pacific rattlers over in Oregon, and we got onto the subject of ontogenic changes because we were talking about my black milks. Ontogenic changes, for those of you who are unfamiliar, are usually relatively rapid, obvious visible changes that occur generally from an animal's "teenage" time until its maturity. Two good examples of this are emerald tree boas and green tree pythons (which are also two good examples of convergent evolution, but I digress), which are each born bright red or yellow, and change to green over the next year or two. Black milks do something similar, being born as a tricolor and changing to pitch black adults. Well anyway, the conversation delved into venoms, and he said he was pretty sure he had read something about some venomous species who undergo an ontogenic change in their venom components. This would make total sense with species who feed on a certain prey item as a baby and then switch to something different, for reasons such as size and availability, as adults. The only one that comes to mind for me, though I'm sure there are others, are death adders (Acanthopis ssp.). Baby and juvenile death adders feed almost solely on baby ground skinks, but adults take a variety of prey, including mammals. I would be curious to see if any of the components change as the animals mature.

Anyway, I just wanted to shed a little scientific light on a topic usually discussed by rednecks while justifying to themselves why they just killed that "baby copperhead" (i.e., baby water snake, adult ringneck, adult earth snake, goes on [img]ad nauseum[/img]).


Re: Myth? Baby snakes are more poisonous than an adult snake?

This was probably the most common question/misconception amongst the campers at ecology camp this year: the idea that baby snakes are MUCH more dangerous than adults, either because they have more toxic venom or because they have less control over venom delivery.  It's a myth that is definitely propagating!  Basically, my stock answer has been similar to Anja's, but I would still feel better if I had a little more ammunition.  I would appreciate it if someone could point me to specific scientific papers that deal with these ideas.  Thanks.

Kory Roberts: Email | Facebook | Flickr | YouTube


Re: Myth? Baby snakes are more poisonous than an adult snake?

When someone asks me about that...i say 'well, which would you rather get nailed by, a baby cottonmouth, or one of them 4ft car tire sized ones...are you THAT sure that babies are worse?" - common sense tells me that regardless of the toxicity, the big snake has the potential to give you a bigger dose...but yeah, i agree, that has to be one of the most common snake 'myths' that perpetuates itself through the ages. 

Speakin of, I am now the proud keeper of hots once again...thanks to Irwin, I 'inherited' a nice timber and a good sized southern copper. (please ask me and j about that story at the next campfire). I swore i was done keeping venomous...but DANG they are so cool.

Government is not the solution Government is the PROBLEM...Ronald Reagan