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Family Elapidae

A large and diverse Family of exclusively venomous snakes, covering all continents (except Antarctica) and several major oceans, these snakes have well developed fangs towards the front of the mouth, which can deliver often highly potent venom, produced in paired venom glands.

FIGURE: Diagramatic representation of a "typical" Elapid snake head, showing the anteriorly placed fangs, in most species capable of little or no rotational movement (ie permanently "erect").

FIGURE: Approximate global distribution of Elapid snakes, including sea snakes.

The archtypical Elapid snake is the Indian cobra, but the typical cobra hood is only present in a few Elapids. Some smaller species are unable or unlikely to successfully envenom humans, but essentially all the larger species are capable of causing envenoming and many are potentially lethal. Elapids are a major cause of snakebite morbidity and mortality globally.

TABLE: Major groups of Elapid snakes and their principal clinical effects.

Scientific name Common name Effect
Acanthophis spp. Australian death adders Neurotoxic paralysis
Austrelaps spp. Australian copperheads Neurotoxic paralysis
Aspidelaps spp. African coral snakes Neurotoxic paralysis
Bungarus spp. Asian kraits Neurotoxic paralysis
Boulengeria spp. African water cobras Neurotoxic paralysis
Calliophis spp. Asian coral snakes Neurotoxic paralysis
Dendroaspis spp. African mambas Neurotoxic paralysis & fasciculation
Elapsoidea spp. African garter snakes Local effects only
Hemachatus haemachatus African rinkhals spitting cobra Local tissue injury, paralysis
Hoplocephalus spp. Australian broad headed snakes Coagulopathy & haemorrhage
Maticora spp. Asian coral snakes Neurotoxic paralysis
Micropechis ikaheka New Guinea small eyed snake
Paralysis, coagulopathy, myolysis
Micrurus spp. American coral snakes Depending on species, paralysis and/or myolysis
Micruroides euryxanthus Arizona coral snake Neurotoxic paralysis (rarely severe)
Naja spp. African & Asian cobras Depending on species severe local tissue injury and/or paralysis
Notechis spp. Australian tiger snakes Paralysis, coagulopathy, myolysis, renal damage
Ophiophagus hannah Asian king cobra Paralysis, local tissue injury
Oxyuranus spp. Australian taipans Paralysis, coagulopathy, myolysis, renal damage
Paranaja multifasciata African burrowing cobra Local effects only
Pseudechis spp. Australian mulga & black snakes Depending on species, myolysis, coagulopathy (anticoagulant), renal damage
Pseudohaje spp. African tree cobras Local effects only
Pseudonaja spp. Australian brown snakes Coagulopathy, renal damage, rarely paralysis
Tropidechis carinatus Australian rough scaled snake Paralysis, coagulopathy, myolysis, renal damage
Walterinnesia aegyptii Middle East desert black snake Neurotoxic paralysis
Various Sea snakes   Paralysis and/or myolysis


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