I’ve Got Happy Feet

We all know this iconic scene from the absolute classic that is Mary Poppins, and I think this where my interest in Antarctica’s most famous residents came from.

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The emperor penguin is the largest species of penguin and one of the largest living birds on Earth, only being found in Antarctica. This marvellous bird is flightless like all other penguins, but truly flies underwater, being perfectly adapted for it with their streamlined bodies, large chests and flipper like wings.

These bird’s diets consist primarily of fish, but they will eat crustaceans and squid. In hunting, the penguins can remain submerged up to 18 minutes, diving to a depth of 1,755 ft!

These birds have an incredible courtship ritual. They trek for miles to breeding colonies which can include thousands of individuals. A lone male with gives an ecstatic display, lowering its head and then gives a courtship call that lasts for about 2 seconds. It will constantly do this and move around until it comes to a female that mirrors its posture of extending its head and neck up. They will then waddle around together before they copulate where both birds bow to each other.

These remarkable birds remain faithful to each other during courtship and have been known to mate for life. However, their mating season is slim and so remaining faithful to last year’s partner is not as major a priority as producing another egg. Both parents play an active role in child upbringing. Once the egg is layered, the father incubates the egg, whilst the mother returns to the sea to hunt and gain her strength back. As the following clip from Happy Feet accurately shows.

Once the egg is hatched parents take turns foraging at sea and caring for the chick in the colony. The babies are born looking far duller in colour than their parents, but their baby feathers are also adapted for the cold.

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These cute babies are incredibly vulnerable and easy pickings for many Antarctic predators. Southern giant petrels are the predominant predator of chicks.

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Adult penguins don’t have to worry about petrels, their two predators are far bigger and more dangerous. Both creatures that hunt them are mammals and are truly masters at hunting these birds.

The leopard seal:

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The second largest species of seal in the Antarctic (after the southern elephant seal), the leopard seal is a vicious predator, with powerful jaws and excellent swimming adaptations, that will actively attack anything it deems food. It’s main prey being penguins, leopard seals are the second most dangerous hunter in the Antarctic, the other also choosing penguin as a meal. See below to get a true sense of these seals prowess.

The killer whale:

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The orca, or killer whale as it is otherwise known, is a master of the sea and the top predator of the Antarctic. It has an extremely diverse diet due to the fact that it can be found all over the globe, from the Antarctic to Australia. They are apex predators and are unchallenged by any other marine animal, even being known to take down adult whales and sharks. They are also extremely intelligent and have adapted many different hunting techniques to deal with different prey.

Anyway, back to the star of this post. The emperor penguin is a powerful animal in its own right and a skilled hunter of fish.

These fantastic birds battle against the cold and still thrive despite being the choice prey for two extremely dangerous and skilled hunters. They have earnt my respect and I hope have earnt yours as well. I hope you enjoyed my post about them, but if you wish to learn more about these birds, I found that Happy Feet was extremely accurate in many ways in portraying these birds, their lives and our relationship with them.

Bigger Really Does Mean Better

Hi guys! For today’s post I am going to focus on the giants of our planet. When I say giants, I don’t mean I’m going to rank them in any particular order, as that would mean that this post might as well be completely about whales. No, I am going discuss the largest animals in specific groups such as land animals, reptiles, fish, etc.

What is the biggest animal?

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It should come as no surprise that this mantle is taken by the largest animal of all time, the blue whale. Reaching a weight of 180 tonnes and a length of 98 ft, these magnificent creatures are truly ginormous. Their tongues alone can weigh as much as an elephant and their hearts are so big that it is possible for a small child to swim inside of the arteries (see the model of one below)!

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It’s almost ironic that these colossal animals are so huge and yet their diet consists of some of Earth’s smallest animals, plankton.

What is the largest land animal?

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The African elephant is the largest living land animal and can weigh up to 7 tonnes as well as grow up to 35 ft from trunk to tail and have a shoulder height of 13 ft. These giant animals aren’t the largest land animals ever, but certainly rank high on the list. These animals are also exceptionally powerful, being able to move trees and rocks with nothing but strength and those trunks. They also rank as one of the most intelligent animals on Earth. Their brain is the largest of any land animal and their cortex fires just as many neurons as a human.

What is the tallest animal?

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The tallest living animal on Earth is the giraffe, their necks alone reaching a height of 6 ft. These creatures, like the African elephant are natives of grasslands of Africa (specifically East Africa in their case). They adapted their legendary necks to reach leaves and shoots on trees and are also equipped with prehensile tongues to do this job. After a 15 month gestation period, babies are born 2 metres tall and fully capable of walking and running!

What is the largest land carnivore?

The position of largest land carnivore is a tough call between the polar bear and the Kodiak bear (a subspecies of brown bear), but the polar bear is generally considered larger. The reason for this uncertainty is the vagueness of the word largest. What does that mean? Heaviest? Longest? Largest ever recorded?

The following data, taken from Gary Brown’s Great Bear Almanac (New York, 1993), compares the average measurements of these two giant ursines.

Polar Bear Brown Bear
Average Weight of Mature Male 900-1,500 pounds 500-900 pounds
Heaviest Recorded 2,210 pounds 2,500+ pounds
Average Length of Mature Male 8-8.4 feet >7-10 feet

Source: The Great Bear Almanac by Gary Brown

However, if we want talk about a truly giant bear then it is worth mentioning the ancient ancestor of both these bears, the Arctotherium angustidens, an ancient South American giant short faced bear, the largest on record weighing up to 3,500 Ibs!

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What is the largest bird?

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The ostrich is the largest living bird, reaching a height of 9 ft and a weight of 344 Ibs, and at 1.9 inches, their eyes are the largest of all land animals. They can survive without water for days and can reach speeds of up to 45 mph! This makes them the fastest animal on 2 legs! Take a look below.

What is the biggest reptile?

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That title belongs to the saltwater crocodile. Although it worth mentioning other largest of their species in this category such as the leatherback sea turtle, the green anaconda and the komodo dragon. Saltwater crocodiles can grow to an average length of 21 ft in length and can weigh up to 1,900 kg! They are widely distributed across parts of India, Asia, Australia and can eat virtually anything! In fact, due to their ability to survive in saltwater, it isn’t uncommon to see one of these ancient beasts feasting on shark meat!

What is the largest fish?

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The ocean has a tendency to make giants doesn’t it? The whale shark is the largest living fish, reaching a length of 40 ft and can weigh up to 22 tonnes. Like the blue whale, these majestic giants feed on plankton and these fish are present in tropical seas around the world. However, whale sharks are considered vulnerable and are even hunted in some areas.

What is the largest amphibian?

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The largest amphibian is the Chinese giant salamander. This species of salamander can weigh up to 140 Ibs and can grow to a length of 6 ft! These bizarre and fascinating creatures are known as living fossils, much like the crocodile on this list, having changed very little from their ancient ancestors. These creatures are endangered and rare to find in the wild.

What is the largest invertebrate?

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Both ranking as the largest mollusk and the largest invertebrate, the colossal squid has knocked down the great giant squid off of its throne! Current estimates put its maximum size to between 39-46 ft long and 1,650 Ibs. In 2007, authorities in New Zealand announced the capture of the largest known colossal squid specimen (please note that the previously mentioned statistics are estimates), which was measured at 14 ft long and 1.091 Ibs in weight. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that record broken.

What is the largest Arthropod?

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Before I tell you about the largest of arthropods, the Japanese spider crab, I must say what an arthropod is. An arthropod is an invertebrate animal (this means it lacks a back bone) of the large phylum Arthropoda. Examples include inscets, arachnids and crustaceans. Considered a delicacy in Japan, these crabs have the largest leg span of any arthropod, which can reach up to 18 ft from claw to claw. The body may grow to a size of 16 inches in carapace width and the whole crab can weigh up to 42 Ibs. The only arthropod heavier than this crab is the American lobster.

So there you have it, a small selection of giants that roam our world. I do apologise for missing out so many other creatures and I do recommend that you not only look into every animal I have mentioned in this post, but also the following animals:

  • the liger (a crossbreed between a male lion and female tiger, the largest on record being a male named Hercules, currently housed at Myrtle Beach Safari in a wildlife reserve in South Carolina).
  • the southern elephant seal.
  • the eastern gorilla.
  • the goliath birdeater spider.
  • the giant weta.
  • the capybara.
  • the moose.

I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Please keep an eye out for my next post, which will not be about all of Earth’s smallest animals (I will only do that post if enough people ask) but will instead be all about one of my personal favourite animals, the emperor penguin.

Britain, Why Are You Lion Around?

Hi guys! Has anyone else here ever wondered why of all animals to chose as our national animal, we have the lion? Other countries national animals make sense, they’ve picked animals that are native to their countries, so why on earth is the lion our animal?

That’s what I’m going to answer today. I’ll also going to tell you some really cool facts about the mighty big cat.

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So, what is a lion?

In case it wasn’t obvious, lions are big cats. These impressive carnivores are the largest big cats in Africa and can weigh up to 420 Ibs.

They are the only type of cat to live in groups, which are called prides. Prides are family units that usually consist of up to three males, a dozen or so females and their young. It is usually headed by an alpha male and all of the cubs in the pride are his. Young males leave to establish their own prides by taking over another group headed by another male.

It really is down to the lionesses to provide in the pride. The males mostly sleep and defend their territory by urinating and roaring as well as getting into fights with other males. The females do all the hunting in the pride as well as rearing the cubs together (talk about girl power).

These animals were once found in most of Africa and parts of Asia and Europe. Now they are only found in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, bar from one very small population of Asian lions that exist in India’s Gir Forest.

Did you know a lion’s roar can be heard up to 8 km away? Take a listen.

I know it doesn’t sound like the Lion King. That roar was actually tiger roars as the producers of that movie felt that the lion’s roar wasn’t powerful enough.

Why is the lion the national animal of England?

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Lions were once kept in the menagerie at the Tower of London and were seen as incredibly brave and strong animals. In Medieval times, warrior were given the nickname ‘the lion’, the most famous being Richard I, known as Richard the Lionheart. Though the lion is not a native species to Great Britain, it possesses the characteristics that the rulers of old thought best showed ‘Britishness’. None of our native animals apparently did.

 

So so there you have it guys, the lion and why it’s England’s national animal. I hope you enjoyed this post and please feel free to comment and make any requests about any animals you would like me to do a post on.

Shifu, Master Of Cuteness

 

Hi guys! Now I am fully aware that my last post was creepy in nature and probably left you a bit disturbed about the natural world. So, in order to make up for that, I’m going to tell you all about one of my favourite animals…

The red panda!

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Now, I first discovered this incredible animal when I first watched the film Kung Fu Panda. Imagine my relief when I realised that red pandas were not at all like the grumpy Master Shifu (see below to understand what I mean).

After watching this scene, I briefly was terrified of red pandas, thinking them to all be cruel and sadistic like Shifu. I instead found them to be cuteness incarnate.

The red panda is a mammal native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China.  Though it is called the red panda, it is not closely related to the giant panda, being more closely related to raccoons, skunks and weasels.

Though these creatures just look abnormally cute, I mean look at this face!

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These creatures are, in fact, perfectly adapted to their environment. Their beautiful fur protecting them from the cold and providing them excellent camouflage and their large eyes and rounded ears allowing them to keep a look out for predators.

Moreover, they are primarily bamboo eaters. This means that those semi retractable claws, fake thumbs and short snouts are designed to make their lives easier.

However, despite their cute appearance, they are solitary animals, only coming together for mating season and since they have many predators, they do know how to use those claws. I wouldn’t recommend having one as a pet!

These amazing animals are preyed on by snow leopards, mustelids (members of the weasel family) and humans and often use their climbing prowess to escape danger. However, if they cannot, they will stand up on two legs to try and look bigger (see below).

Their diet mostly consists of bamboo, however they are omnivores and also eat small mammals, birds, eggs, flowers, fish, insects, acorns, lichens, mushrooms, roots and berries. Due to their low calorie diets, they do little more than eat and sleep.

To finish up, I’m going to show you some photos of these amazing and cute animals.

So there you all have it, the red panda. I hope you all liked this post about these amazing creatures. Please feel free to suggest any animals you would like a post on in the comments and until then please do avoid any pandamonium (forgive the pun)!

The Stuff Of Nightmares

Hi everyone. Seeing as its Halloween, I think it is only fitting that my post today be on nature’s very own monsters. Here is my top ten most scary looking animals on Earth.

Be warned. The following pictures may disturb you.

Ten: the star-nosed mole

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The star-nosed mole isn’t what may pop into your head when I say creepy, but you have to admit it’s unusual looking nose makes it look like a weird alien. It’s nose, in fact, is it’s greatest weapon. The star-nosed mole is blind and it’s highly sensitive nose, particularly those fleshy tentacles, is used to feel its surroundings, identify prey and prevent soil from entering its nose whilst the mole is digging.

Nine: the lobster moth caterpillar

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This bizzare creature is truly strange in appearance and it derives it’s name from the fact that its enlarged abdomen looks like a lobster tail. This creature is harmless in all honesty, but it’s bizarre appearance not only freaks us humans out, but potential predators as this creature is very good at acting like it is some kind of venomous spider or deadly insect.

Eight: the Texas horned lizard

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The Texas horned lizard, is the most common species of horned lizard and is hardly the most terrifying creature on this list, apart from the fact that it looks like some kind of dinosaur. But what makes this creature worthy of being on this list is its bizarre defence mechanism against predators. It, alongside most other species of horned lizard, can shoot blood out of its eyes! Don’t believe me? Take a look at the clip below.

Seven: the spotted hyena

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The spotted hyena is one of the most dangerous animals in Africa and is truly terrifying. With its bear like build, huge fangs and jet black eyes, it would make any man shudder in fear. But what makes this animal truly creepy is it’s famous laugh which makes people often think that it enjoys being an aggressive monster. Below is a clip of this animals disturbing vocal patterns in action.

Six: the giant squid

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If you’ve watched Pirates of Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, you may recall the monstrous kraken. The giant squid is our real life kraken. It can grow to be the size of a school bus and whilst it actively hunts other squid and fish, it has been known to eat small whales (which isn’t very small). It is only really hunted by the giant sperm whale and even then it doesn’t go down without a fight (sperm whale carcasses often have wounds made by a giant squid on it, and vice versa).

Five: the goliath bird-eater spider

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This list wouldn’t be complete without some kind of spider on it right? The goliath bird-eater is one of the biggest spiders on the planet and easily, as the name may suggest, the most terrifying. These tarantulas use their fangs to capture prey and inject venom into their poor victims. The venom dissolves inside the prey and the spider sucks up its meal, leaving behind skin and bones. Goliath bird-eater spiders typically eat small birds, snakes, lizards and frogs. However, these formidable and aggressive arachnids will attack anything if they feel threatened. They are also capable of using the bristles on their legs to make a loud hissing noise (which is just down right unsettling). Just be thankful that their venom is harmless to humans.

Four: the anglerfish

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The anglerfish is a type of deep sea bioluminescent fish. The females of the species have a glowing bulb of flesh that hangs down from their head and acts as a lure to attract prey. This monstrous fish can eat prey twice its size with its huge mouth and inwardly pointing sharp teeth. If you doubt this creatures presence on my list just watch this famous clip taken from Disney Pixar’s Finding Nemo.

Three: the tapeworm

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Tapeworms deserve to be on this list just because of what they are, let alone how they look! Tapeworms are a type of parasitic flatworm that live within the digestive systems of their hosts. These strange and disgusting looking organisms have hooks and suckers around their scolex (head), which helps them to attach themselves to their hosts intestinal wall. Their long bodies can reach up to 20 ft and these creatures survive by stealing nutrients from their hosts. Talk about a freeloader right?!

Two: the white-shouldered bat

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When you think of horrifying bats, the first thing that may come to your mind is the world famous blood sucker, the vampire bat. However, the white-shouldered bat is far more grotesque looking with its large eyes, pointed pug nose and small, sharp teeth, which gives them a truly menacing appearance. Don’t be alarmed though. These natives of South and Central America pose no threat to humans and lives on a diet of fruit and insects.

One: the black dragonfish

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The black dragonfish, like the anglerfish, is a type of bioluminescent fish that lives in deep ocean waters. Also just like the anglerfish, the females of the species are far deadlier and more terrifying. Female black dragonfish possess sharp fang-like teeth and a long barbel that hangs from their chin (the barbel contains photophores, which produce light and lure in prey). Adult female black dragonfish can reach lengths of around 2 ft and resemble an eel in appearance, though far more dragon like (as you can see above).

So so there you have it everyone, my top ten scary animals. Feel free to comment on the animals in this list if you feel I got the order wrong or if there was an animal even more deserving a place on this list. Thanks for reading and Happy Halloween!

Don’t Get Hissterical On Me! Part 2

Hi again guys! My last post was all about the most venomous snakes on Earth. Now, as promised I shall move on to the group of snakes known as “constrictors”.

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The constrictors are quite possibly even deadlier than their venomous cousins as these snakes are giants. At least if your bitten by a venomous serpent, there is a chance to escape and maybe get help. Unless you have superhuman strength, there is no escaping these powerhouses. These monsters, rather than inject venom into their prey, are ambush hunters and strike their unsuspecting prey and coils around them.

However, contrary to popular belief, constrictors don’t kill their prey by crushing them or suffocating them. Instead these beasts cut off blood flow to vital organs such as the brain and heart leading to unconsciousness and then cardiac arrest. These snakes, once they are sure their prey is dead, then go on to eat their food whole (even if that food is the size of a zebra or larger).

The four largest snakes on Earth are all constrictors and I will now discuss them and their ancient and even larger ancestor. They are the following.

The African rock python:

FB16F29B-89C9-43C9-BDF1-E3C475BA3E0DThis python is one of 11 living species in the python genus and is not only the largest in Africa, but one of the largest snakes on Earth. It has two subspecies, one found in Central and Western Africa and the other in Southern Africa.

Specimens of this snake may approach or even exceed a length of 20 ft and can eat prey the size of antelope, occasionally even crocodiles.

The snake reproduces like all other snakes; laying eggs, however, unlike other snakes, females of this species actually protect their eggs and even their hatchlings.

The Burmese python:

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The Burmese python, found in the tropical south and southeast of Asia, is one of the longest members of the snake family and easily one of heaviest, weighing about 182.8 kg on average. These snakes are often considered semi-aquatic and are mainly nocturnal.

The Burmese python, whilst heavier than the next snake to feature is not as long.

The reticulated python:

61B8B9AC-1C96-414B-BCF8-398D8EA00B28The reticulated python is the world’s longest snake and reptile! It can be found in South Asia and Southeast Asia. There have been people who have been killed and (in two reported cases) eaten by these goliaths.

These snakes are fantastic swimmers and have been reported far out at sea, having colonised many small islands within its range.

Fun fact: it is known as the reticulated python due to its pattern which is net-like or reticulated in design.

The green anaconda:

3DC5F917-FC36-479B-90C6-D20396B84E89The green anaconda is the heaviest snake on Earth and the second longest. It is found in north and central South America and, like the reticulated python, is a fantastic swimmer, spending the vast majority of its life in the Amazon River.

All of these snakes are giants and are extremely efficient and deadly hunters, but are nothing compared to their ancient ancestor…

The titanoboa:

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This creature was once found in what is now La Guajira, Colombia and could grow to be 42 ft long and weigh about 2,500 Ib.

I, however, know very little about this colossal monster and suggest you visit:

https://insider.si.edu/2012/03/largest-snake-the-world-has-ever-seen-is-being-brought-back-to-life-by-smithsonian-channel/

So there you have it everyone, two posts about snakes! I had a real blast making these and will be happy to take any further requests regarding any future posts I create!

Don’t Get Hissterical On Me! Part 1

Hi everyone! I have been kindly asked by a family member in Melbourne, Australia if I wouldn’t mind doing a blog on snakes (hence the horrendous pun), and so I shall.

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Serpentes, or snakes, are one of the most versatile and unique species to be found on our planet. Snakes have conquered every continent (apart from Antarctica) and can even be found in our oceans! There are two different types of snakes; venomous snakes and constrictor snakes. In this post I shall discuss the venomous snakes.

What makes a snake venomous is their ability to produce venom, which is primarily used for the immobilisation of their prey and for defence (this is usually done through injection into the victims bloodstream via terrifying fangs). There are more than 600 species of venomous species of snake on this planet, but only about 200 pose any threat to humans, according to the World Health Organisation (I know, not much of a comfort, but it could be worse, all of them could be dangerous to us). The six most deadly snakes on Earth are the following:

The saw-scaled viper:

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This viper inhabits parts of India and the Middle East. It doesn’t possess the strongest of venoms, but it is responsible for more human deaths annually than any other snake. This is partly because it’s often found in populated areas.

The king cobra:

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The king cobra rightly earns its title as king. It can reach 18 ft, making it the longest of the world’s venomous snakes. This cobra is found in India and Southeast Asia and can deliver enough neurotoxins in one bite to kill an Asian elephant!

The tiger snake:

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This dangerous species of snake inhabits southern Australia and Tasmania. It kills its victims with an extremely potent mixture of neurotoxins, coagulants, hemolysins and myotoxins. What is very interesting about this snake though is that it varies in size depending on their personal taste in prey.

The inland taipan:

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This serpent is often referred to as the “fierce snake” and its bite is certainly very fierce, being able to kill a human in less than an hour. The inland taipan is easily one of the deadliest snakes on the planet with its paralysing venom being able to cause haemorrhage in the blood vessels and muscle tissue of its victim.

The faint-banded sea snake:

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This sea snake is believed to be the most venomous snake on Earth, with its bite said to be 100 times more deadly than that of its compatriot, the inland taipan. Lucky for us, this native of the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean is rarely known to bite humans.

Lastly, the black mamba:

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The black mamba was featured on my last post as one of the most aggressive animals on Earth. It is one of the most venomous snakes on Earth as well. This Usain Bolt of snakes can move at speeds of up to 12.5 mph and its bite can kill a human in less than 30 minutes. David Attenborough (below) will explain a bit more about this deadly snake and why it is so much faster than other serpents.

That’s all for the first part of my post about snakes. Come back soon for the second part, this one being all about the giants of the serpents, the constrictors.