Coral snakes have fangs to deliver poisonous bites by injecting venom into their victims’ bodies. However, the fangs appear different for coral snakes and don’t usually tuck in like most elapid snakes but are constantly erect and out-pointing.
They are typically short to fit inside their tiny mouths, meaning that they merely puncture the human skin when they bite.
They don’t carry a lot of venom in their fangs. So, to make their bites more effective, these snakes usually cling onto their victims to inject the most poison.
Do all coral snakes bite?
A standard characteristic with most venomous snakes is that they usually flare up, ready to attack when threatened. Some snakes may even go the extra mile of deliberately attacking humans when they feel their presence, even when not threatened in any way. But for coral snakes, the narrative is always different.
Most coral snake species are usually reclusive, and they’ll only bite when handled or get stepped on. However, a quick bite won’t spell doom to their victims because their small teeth don’t inject massive doses of venom. For their bites to be more significant, these snakes usually hold on to their victims and bite in chewing motion until they inject venom doses that are effective enough.
What happens if you get bit?
There’ve been no known death cases recorded from coral snake bites from time immemorial, so it’s fair to say that their bites aren’t as deadly. However, with delayed treatment, the effects can be detrimental to their victims and sometimes life-threatening.
Coral snake bites usually manifest severe side effects that can be painful and uncomfortable to their victims. Unlike other snake species, coral snake bites are generally less painful and don’t induce swelling around the wound. Besides, there’s no impending immediate danger to the health like it would happen with most known venomous snakes. The symptoms, which include convulsions, changes in skin color, stomach pain, headaches, and drooping eyelids, will show hours later.
The only known cause of death with coral snake bites is cardiac arrests, with victims often succumbing to imminent respiratory failures.
Coral snakes are usually brightly colored when young but fade out as they mature. However, a glance at them reveals an ornate coloration that appeals to the eye but is a constant implication of danger. Generally, they have alternating flanked color bands with predominantly black, red, and yellow stripes, which encircle their bodies in complete loops.
However, other non-poisonous snakes still take this body coloration to appear lethal, but it’s usually a defense mechanism to keep away predators. The Scarlet Kingsnake and the Lampropeltis, for instance, typically disguise themselves as coral snakes, and it’s generally challenging to tell them apart.
Coral snake venom
The cause of death from most vipers is their effective mode of venom delivery, which is usually fast and targeted to inject into their victims’ bloodstream. However, venom delivery is technically underdeveloped for coral snakes, thanks to their tiny mouths and small fangs. Their venom toxicity is almost on par with rattlesnakes and cobras, so that a significant dose can be life-threatening.
A typical characteristic for most venomous snakes is their bright coloration which flags warning to their perpetrators. And while most timid snakes will duck away to safety when threatened, most venomous snakes will have the audacity to take on their offenders. However, for coral snakes, it’s the polar opposite. They’ll only attack when handled or stepped on, ready to deliver minute doses of poison.
These snakes share a tag with most elapid venomous snakes, including cobras, sea snakes, and mambas, but rarely deliver lethal and life-threatening bites.