Venom of psammophine snakes

  1. First of all
  2. Venomdoc 2013
  3. Discussion 2004
  4. Rhamphiophis oxyrhynchus
  5. Miscellanious
  6. Psammophylax tritaeniatus
  7. Rhamphiophis oxyrhynchus 2
  8. Facebook 2013
  9. Facebook 2014
  10. Facebook 2014 Dec.
  11. Malpolon monspessulanus

First of all

Scott A. Weinstein, Julian White, Daniel E. Keyler, David A. Warrell. Non-front-fanged colubroid snakes: A current evidence-based analysis of medical significance.
Psammophiid snakes are considered harmless as there is no evidence that serious envenomation has ever occurred.

Three-Fingered RAVERs: Rapid Accumulation of Variations in Exposed Residues of Snake Venom Toxins, by Kartik Sunagar, Timothy N. W. Jackson, Eivind A. B. Undheim, Syed. A. Ali , Agostinho Antunes and Bryan G. Fry. Toxins 2013, 5(11), 2172-2208.

Venomdoc Forum 2013

Venomdoc Forums, Sat Feb 17, 2007 7:46 am, a contributor called 'Rob':

"On a recent field trip a friend was bitten by an adult Psammophis subtaeniatus on his pinky finger. The snake had enough time and enough of a gape to inflict a full bite. Soon after his finger started swelling and began to itch, The swelling spread through his whole hand and about 3/4 up his forearm, Began to look like a B. arietans bite.
Anyways, the itching had stopped by the following day but the swelling completely subsided only 6 days later. Thereafter the itching returned but only for a day.
I didnt expect such a reaction from a Psammophis.

A 'Tom' added, Thu Feb 22, 2007 10:09 am:

"I vagually remembering one or two cases where some human victims got in real trouble from bites inflicted by this genus, developing serious symptoms, actually resembling the same symptoms as it were cobrabites.
The same occured on some occasions with the genus Malpolon ssp. I beleive some deaths have been recorded in N. Africa, and some people had to be hospitalized in Spain after a bite from Malpolon ssp."


And a Nivea, Sun Mar 04, 2007 12:52 am:


I was engaged in a post fire survey last week at DeHoop NR here in the Western Cape. I picked up a 60cm Psammophis crucifer and it had a good chew on my right index finger. It began to itch and swell about 15min latter.
One hour later found a large baboon spider under a rock; we thought it was dead, succumbed to the fire, so I tickled its abdomen with my left hand and it jumped on to my right hand and nailed me in the exact place as the Psammophis.
The finger swelled up just a little but itched like mad, then a rash like goose bumps spread between my finger right down to the tip.
A day to remember."

A bite by a Psammophis subtaeniatus was reported by someone who called himself Pythonodipsas, Wed Jun 13, 2007 8:15 am, on SA Reptiles.


One hour after the bite:


Four hours after the bite:


"Besides the swelling I felt fine. My armpit on the opposite side was swollen and tender. I have had many psammophis, etc. bite me when being caught and never had this kinda reaction."

On the same forum, a post by EDDY, Wed Jun 13, 2007 8:39 am:

"One of our regular customers, a kid that I think is around about the age of 14- 15 wanted to sell a skaapsteker to me. But I told him I cant buy it because its indigeonus and you need a permit for it. Just remember this is the same kid who told me he caught a rattlesnake in the veld who spat at him.

A week or so after this he came into the shop with hes mother and she told me that the snake bit him and hes whole body swelled up and he landed in hospital for treatment.

Now from what I know if a skaapsteker bit you, you will get a headache or so. But maybe this kid had a allergic reaction or something."

And the reaction of Pythonodipsas:

"Sounds like BS - maybe he had some swelling but I doubt his whole body swelled up.
Also rear fanged colubrids like heralds (crotaphopeltis) and skaapsteekers (psammophylax), etc can't give you headaches. Thats an old-wives tale. If anything the venom has a mild anticoagulant effect, much like aspirin and should take a headache away.
I think if people get headaches it is a psychosomatic response."

And a Hammies:, Wed Jun 13, 2007 9:52 am:

"I was bitten by a skaapsteker once (I didn't let it chew me), and absolutely nothing happened, except for a little red mark where the teeth punctured my flesh. I suspect only the front teeth got me though."

And again, Pythonodipsas, Wed Jun 13, 2007 11:39 am:

"When the sand snake bit me my buddy said wait let me photgraph it biting you. I accepted and he got 2 shots in and I couldn't take it anymore. The snake must have chewed for at least 5 seconds, so I guess thats why I reacted.

I even had an wild adult P. brevirostris bite me on the nipple once (don't ask) and nothing happened except the horrid pain of the teeth going in."

Discussion 2004

2004, in a discussion forum on Phbpp:
We are working heavily on Psammophiidae venoms and will be including Rhamphiophis and Malpolon in the up-coming studies. We've already had a good play with Psammophis and found it to be a very complex venom with neurotoxic and hemorrhagic actions. I would expect other members of this family to be variations on the same theme.
Psammophiidae snakes also have very large fangs and huge venom glands so the potential for significant envenomation is higher than other 'colubrid' types.

Venom Evolution Laboratory,
School of Biological Sciences
University of Queensland,

Rhamphiophis oxyrhynchus

The poison of Rhamphiophis oxyrhynchus (Rufous beaked snake) is studied by Lumsden a.o. in 2007. They identified rufoxin, a neurotoxin. Rufoxin differs from previously identified snake venom toxins. This work indicates a wider distribution of neurotoxins across the advanced snake superfamily than previously described.

In a previous study (Lumsden a.o. 2005) it appeared for instance that this venom (5 mg/kg) induced hypotension with subsequent cardiovascular collapse.
The biological activities demonstrated by R. oxyrhynchus venom may aid in prey envenomation strategies such as prey immobilisation. This study provides further evidence that colubrid venoms are comprised of multiple components which can display a variety of actions, some of which may be novel, therefore reinforcing the largely untapped potential of colubrid venoms.


Quote IBsmokin from Nova Scotia, Canada:
"There is alot of misconception over their venom, but after keeping these species for a couple of years, I can tell you the many different species in this Genus are basically harmless to humans, and even the largest members if the genus who have the largest venom glands are not dangerous to humans. A bite from the largest members may cause some discomfort, the bite site may get discoloraton, swelling and extremely local itching, sometimes symptoms include nausea. But these symptoms clear up in a few hours and the discoloration clears after a few days. However, these symptoms are rear and are experienced by a small percentage of bite victims.
I have been purposedly bit on several ocassions by a large 5 foot psammophis mossambicu the largest species of the genus and experienced no symptoms after 3 bites but felt slight itching around bite side after specimen chewed on my finger for a few straight minutes. But no discoloration or nausea was experienced."

Psammophylax tritaeniatus

On the forum of SA Reptiles there is a thread about (e.g.) envenomation by Psammophylax tritaeniatus, with pictures.

Rhamphiophis oxyrhynchus 2

The freeze dried poison of Rhamphiophis oxyrhynchus is offered by the French firm Latoxan.

Pure venom of Rhamphiophis oxyrhynchus   

Product ID L1404 
Name Rhamphiophis oxyrhynchus 
Origin South Africa  
Purity >99%  
Form lyophilized powder  
Packaging Vacuum sealed glass vials, in secured parcel. 
US $
100 mg
  500 mg - -  
1 g

Facebook 2013

In the group Rear fanged and "oddball" colubrids there was a discussion in November 2013, of which I copy here the following, cutting some crap:

Dane Conley
I am really interested in getting a False Water Cobra or Mangrove Snake but I cannot find a reliable way to see how venomous they really are. I have seen people post that bites are comparable to a bee sting, all the way from fingers being lost and possible deaths. And then every mangrove/FWC ad I see on Kingsnake (as pictured) people are just completely free handling them.
If I do get one I am not going to be free handling it or let anyone handle them, but I would like to know how dangerous a snake really is before buying it.
And how is a Mangrove and False Water Cobra's venom compared to a Baron's Racer? And I know the whole "every bite is different", but a in the ball park idea is still useful.

Rachel Woll
Shows how little we know about these "harmless" bites
19 november om 6:05 via mobiel

Skip E. Loder
Have you ever seen what happens when a human chews on another human for a protracted amount of time? Cuts, bruising, swelling, pus - sound familiar?
19 november om 15:03 • Vind ik leuk

Ton Steehouder
What about the teeth of a rat in your finger? Try that.
19 november om 17:17

Bryan Grieg Fry
Skip, there is a difference between mechanical damage such as chewing and chemical damage such as that from venom
19 november om 19:29

Skip E. Loder
Bryan, I keep many species of "venomous" snakes - rhamphiophis, psammophylax, thrasops, rhamnophis, philodryas (olfersii/viridissimus/psammophidea/patagoniensis), hydrodynastes, heterodon and I've kept venomous snakes such as dispholidus, rhabdophis and various crotalids. Would you not agree that there is a difference between the former group and the latter? I do not disagree that the former group are indeed venomous - I just do not agree that they are dangerous. This hobby continues to cling to the notion that hydrodynastes may someday prove to be as dangerous as the more infamous dispholodines and that one of us may end up being the next Karl Schmidt. I live in a state where they will not hesitate to drop the ban hammer on any rear-fanged snakes that they THINK are dangrous - I would ask that members of this hobby be very careful on how they hype harmless animals such as heterodon nasicus. We already have people going onto the forums worried that their kids will die if bit by one.
19 november om 19:44

Bryan Grieg Fry
I agree on all points. They are variations on a theme, so there is a full spectrum of clinical effects, with some indeed being more dangerous than others. A point we drive home on every occasion. The relative danger is a combination of how much venom is produced, how efficient the delivery is and, perhaps most importantly, whether the venom has been evolutionarily selected to be potent on mammals. Boiga venoms, for example, are elapid level potent when tested against bird nerves but Boiga venoms are 100x less potent against the same target on the mammalian nervous system. So the relative human danger is very low. The most important point to consider is that there are some that are not widely recognised as being potentially dangerous. Large Psammophiinae such as Psammophis, Rhamphiophis and Malpolon are examples. Extremely large venom glands and quite potent venom against mammalian as well as avian targets. Here is a dissection showing the size of the glands of Psammophis mossambicus

19 november om 20:21
Skip E. Loder
I've read the papers on rufoxin. I guess with species like thrasops and rhamphiophis the argument could be that they are packing .45 caliber ammo, but the delivery system is akin to throwing it underhand at someone instead of shooting it from a gun?
19 november om 20:26

Bryan Grieg Fry
No, they have massive very mobile rear-fangs. Pop open the mouth of a Rhamphiophis some time and evert the fangs. You'll be quite surprised. Paul Hotherps Rowley's face was priceless when I showed him how big they were in the specimen he had for years and blithely never thought about checking out the fangs!
19 november om 20:28

Skip E. Loder
Okay - I've had thrasops chew on live rodents and within a relatively short period of time, those buggers are bleeding out the eyes the nose and the mouth. I've fed live to rubropunctatus and rostratus (as well as p. acutus) and have never seen anything approaching the effect of thrasops. In fact, the rhamps eat more like drymarchon- overpowering and gulping their food where thrasops and rhamnophis will tend to hang on and chew until larger prey are bloody rags. Any reports of rhamp bites? I've been keeping them a long time and they've never attempted to bite. Thrasops will puff up like other dispholidines and actualy try to tag you......
19 november om 20:38

Bryan Grieg Fry
I too have seen scary fast kill rates from Thrasops. They have the same venom as a Dispholidus but just without the big fangs, with the increased effectiveness of the venom delivery coming subsequent to the shift in toxicity (which of course makes perfect evolutionary sense). Regardless, I rate them as a species of potential concern. As for the Psammophiines, I have seen P. mossambicus kill small rats very fast, several in quick succession, using just snap-and-release biting.
19 november om 21:13

Ton Steehouder
What I meant, is that a reaction of the body (for instance swelling of a finger or hand) need not necessarily be caused by envenomation.
Over here (Belgium and The Netherlands), I have the impression too that lots of snake keepers tend to exaggerate the danger of rear fanged snakes, because they think people will find them cool. It is a threat to serious snake keeping, as it gives ammunition to those who want to ban keeping all exotic animals.
19 november om 23:42

Bryan Grieg Fry
I agree it should not be exaggerated, no more so than it should be trivialised. It should be reality based and supported by evidence. Swelling from venom will follow a completely different time course and with different symptoms, than would be the case for swelling from bacterial infection.
19 november om 23:45

Ton Steehouder
Yes, but most people do not see that difference and just jump to conclusions. But - over all I agree with you.
19 november om 23:58

Bryan Grieg Fry
As with anything else, education is the key.
20 november om 0:06

Frank Menser
Having owned, been chewed on and having no ill effects whatsoever from Thrasops (I had both green and black phases). I would point out the often over-looked problem with people - rather than snakes in this issue. Just as some people cannot eat peanuts without disastrous effects, while others eat them by the bag and enjoy them; so to are there going to be the occasional individual who will react negatively to a snakebite most find harmless. I think instead of crying about the snake, more attention should be directed towards testing people to find a way to determine whether they have a sensitivity to venom. This is a far better solution than the "ban all" legislation that is often the case when the government gets the idea that a harmless snake has venom. I saw this happen in Florida when a disgruntled petshop employee blew the whistle on rear fang species - formerly considered harmless by the state.
28 november om 16:55 ·

Cameron A. Kabinoff
Frank - what species was moved from harmless to venomous in the state?
28 november om 17:00

Frank Menser
Back in the day Boiga and Ateulla were considered harmless. You could buy them at any shop.
28 november om 17:02

Ton Steehouder
Found a passage in Broadley 1959 about envenomation by a Psammophis sibilans, just for the record: ""I have been bitten three times by adult snakes while catching them. Full bites from a 3-foot Essexvale snake and a 4-foot Bulawayo snake produced in each case only slight local pain and inflammation, which passed off within an hour. On 16.viii.57 I captured a 3'9" male at Bulawayo. I had dug the snake out of a pile of thornbush and debris and was lying on the ground under the thorn branches when I seized the snake, who promptly fastened onto my finger and chewed. It took me a minute or two to back out of my tunnel and disengage the snake's fangs from the base of my finger. After 10 minutes the finger started to swell up and I scarified and sucked the punctures. The whole hand was swollen and tender within an hour, but there was no pain. The swelling started to subside after 24 hours and was back to normal after 48 hours."
29 november om 15:02

Frank Menser
Bryan Grieg Fry I am intrigued by your comments on Thrasops. I kept two; a green and a black phase. Was bitten by both in a way that engaged the back teeth and had no reaction at all except the typical bite marks. Both specimens were in the five foot range.
5 december om 0:19

Jim Hockenberry
Agreed Frank Menser. Another problem is that some of the common names are closely associated or the same as a completely harmless colubrid.
5 december om 0:23

Bryan Grieg Fry
Hi Frank,
Naturally absence of evidence does not equate to evidence of absence. As they do not have the compressor muscles of a boomslang, the delivery is slower and the secretion stimuated by chemical cues. So if they are not going into feeding bite So if they are not going into feeding bite mode, they very well may not envenomate. In other words, you may have been lucky. When people say 'but no one has ever died from .... ' My response is always the same 'do you want to be the first!'
Thrasops are of course much less dangerous than boomslangs since they do not have the long fangs or venom gland compressor muscles. They can be blocked by long sleeve shirts and the lightest of gardening gloves.
5 december om 0:28

Frank Menser
"you have been lucky." I get that a lot. Absence of evidence is also evidence of absence. I do not argue the toxicity, but the delivery is (as you pointed out) a bit inferior.
5 december om 2:15

Bryan Grieg Fry
>"you have been lucky."
is that what she said?
5 december om 2:59

Frank Menser
But then I could say, "she was lucky"
5 december om 15:25

Frank Menser
The one thing that bothers me in conversations like this is - who is also listening? A while back I cautioned about all the posts on Burmese Pythons and caught a lot of nasty comments from rather short-sighted people who wouldn't believe the ban was coming. Well, it happened. The people who make laws no nothing about these animals and generally listen to lobbyists. While these threads may be deemed 'educational' the law makers will only see the word "venom" and push to ban those species from us. It took one fool in Florida to blow the whistle on rear fanged snakes so they were relisted as venomous. It does happen people, and we are not the loudest voice in government.
5 december om 15:32

Bryan Grieg Fry
I agree but surpressing science is not the way to go. It is about education. Boiga for example are as hot as a cobra on avian nerves but are 100x less potent on mammalian. So the human danger is trivial.
5 december om 19:48 via mobiel · Vind ik leuk

Martin Habecker
Problem is law makers tend to not bother with any form of scientific logic.
5 december om 22:54 · Vind ik leuk

Bryan Grieg Fry
As a scientist, that is of course quite beyond my control
5 december om 23:01 · Vind ik leuk · 2

Martin Habecker
This is a country based upon broad, sweeping generalizations my friend.
5 december om 23:10 · Vind ik leuk

Ton Steehouder
Simple truths, easy to explain, easy to sell - that's what politicians like. Popular beliefs are stronger than scientific knowledge.
5 december om 23:14 · Vind ik leuk · 2

Frank Menser
Brian Bryan Grieg Fry, it's not about suppressing Science. It's about taking a responsible look at the effects or words and actions have. The governments do not care at all about the truth. What they care about is promoting an agenda that makes the public feel they are doing their job. You can tell the truth all you want and they are only going to listen to what they think will benefit them. So like I said. In the end they will use everything we give them as ammo against us.
5 december om 23:22 · Vind ik niet meer leuk · 2

Bryan Grieg
Fry All I can do is do what we have done, and stress at every opportunity that varanids and rear-fang snakes are by and large of only trivial human medical importance but that they a biodiscovery resource.
5 december om 23:26 · Vind ik leuk · 1

Skip E. Loder
 I think the problem is less what Bryan has researched and reported and more how WE in the hobby disseminate it and romanticize it. It's the members of this subculture that over-emphasize the "danger" of these animals - not Bryan. It's members of this hobby that spead disinformation about FWC deaths, overblow the risks of anaphylactic shock with rear fanged snakes, and serve out basically baseless dire warnings. If Brian reports that a thrasops is essentially equipped with the same venom as a dispholidus or thelatornis but lacks the means to effectively envenomate a person, that information is not harmful. What is harmful is the clown that posts a hyped up bite account and the next clown who starts spreading that trumped up account to the community. If it ever comes to pass that these snakes become the target of legislation it's not the facts that are to blame, but how certain people have exaggerated those facts.5 december om 23:36 · Vind ik niet meer leuk · 5

Martin Habecker
^ well said!!
5 december om 23:41 · Vind ik leuk

Francis Cosquieri
 I have personally taken envenomating bites from both a CB Thrasops jacksoni and a wild Psammophis sibilans. The latter, a twisting bite to the wrist where the snake got one fang in, resulted in rapid inflammation and localised pain that had subsided in 24 hours... as for the Thrasops - it's the case that is referred to in the book in question. I had also taken several harmless nips from my animals so did not think anything of it... an oversight that resulted in days of agony and weeks of discomfort; my hand was paralysed and hideously swollen. The bite was on the forefinger of my left hand and the arm up to the elbow was affected (not to mention other symptoms). They may not have a delivery system as capable as the more dangerous species, but they are certainly more than capable of giving very painful and prolonged envenomation and to imply otherwise would be a grave error. While I agree rear-fanged snakes are often "over-hyped", I feel it is as senseless to understate their potential as it is to overstate it...

Gisteren om 0:17 · Vind ik leuk · 3

Ton Steehouder
Your own honesty can be very dangerously used against you by ill meaning adverseries.
16 uur geleden via mobiel · Vind ik leuk · 2

Frank Menser
Exactly my point. Those interested in banning all snakes have proven over and over that they will employ misinformation freely. While I advocate expanding our knowledge, we cannot trust them to be as honest as we.
10 uur geleden · Vind ik leuk · 1

Francis Cosquieri
What is the alternative? Not telling keepers that these poorly known species have the capacity to harm them? When I first started keeping Thrasops around eight years ago there was nothing on the internet to imply they were venomous... Indeed the only reference to a bite from one I found was somebody saying the same thing as above - that they had taken a nip with no effect (as indeed I had also experienced). It was only after I received my envenomation and began posting about it on forums as an interesting (if rather uncomfortable) experience that Dr. Fry made me aware of his Evolution of an Arsenal paper and that these snakes had relatively complex venom. If I had known this when I started keeping them then I would have adjusted my handling methods accordingly and not have gone through my ordeal by misjudging my animals. I think it is a sad day indeed when people stop sharing their experiences or the truth for fear of what others might say, and the potential ramifications of doing so might be just as costly as keeping quiet. There are still many, many people around that will argue until they are blue in the face that Hognosed snakes are not capable of giving envenomating bites... What happens when someone takes a severe bite from, say, a Pseudoxenodon or Macropisthodon? Such species are not classified as "dangerous" yet the potential exists...9 uur geleden via mobiel · Vind ik leuk · 2

Frank Menser
Welcome to the paradox. On one hand - yes - that information is important to us all. On the otherhand, parties will use and twist that information to end our hobby. Wish I had all the answers, but I don't. I only know from experience that much of what we were able to do and have when I was young has been taken away.
6 december om 14:37

Frank Menser
Welcome to the paradox. On one hand - yes - that information is important to us all. On the otherhand, parties will use and twist that information to end our hobby. Wish I had all the answers, but I don't. I only know from experience that much of what we were able to do and have when I was young has been taken away.
6 december om 14:41 · Vind ik leuk · 1

Tyler Hake
Choosing to ignore the fact that some of the snakes could potential deliver a pretty bad or even lethal bite is really irresponsible in my opinion. Sure, someone might use that information to have rear fanged species put under strict regulations like many places have with venomous. But what happens when some kid gets their hands on a rear fanged species who's venom isn't well understood yet and gets tagged and ends up in the hospital or even worse (although unlikely), dead? That looks even worse on the hobby.
6 december om 15:56

Skip E. Loder
Francis - can you provide me a link to pictures of your bite? I've been keeping Thrasops for over 14 years - been breeding them, selling them, etc. In that time I have been bit and chewed God knows how many times. Since you are familiar with thrasops, you know that when they really "get their chew on" you can actually see the venom collecting at the corners of their mouth - so I know these were not "dry" bites.. Other than very mild swelling and leaking of blood and fluid at the site of the bite, I had nothing of what you describe. I am well aware of what their bite/venom can do to live prey.......I've seen it over and over again. I've sold these snakes to many people and have never heard of an account like yours. Not doubting you Francis - it's just that I have extensive experience with these animals and have never heard anything like what you have described here. If you've got pictures, I would truly love to see them. I am not above changing my opinion when the facts present themselves.
6 december om 16:28

Francis Cosquieri
There are no photos online, this happened many years ago, but I did keep detailed notes of the entire ordeal. I originally posted on a forum called Livefood.UK but that closed down, however the account is also on various other forums. Here is the Kingsnake.com thread which Dr. Fry commented upon: http://forums.kingsnake.com/view.php?id=1510152,1510152
6 december om 21:47

Francis Cosquieri
6 december om 21:57

Francis Cosquieri
The above link contains some elaboration from the original thread with more info.
6 december om 21:57

Martin Habecker
Very good information here, but we have to take into acccount the degradation of disseminated information first. Dr. Fry publishes a paper on the comparison of Boiga and Naja venom as it correlates to effects upon avian prey but doen't act the same on mammalian prey. That paper is interpreted through a media outlet which makes the information easier for the general population to understand and shortens it removing a few details like the contextual fact the it does not effect mammalian prey in the same manner, or with a catchy headline such as "Non-venomous snake as potent as Cobra". Then gets passed on by word of mouth and after a few people the original message is grossly taken out of context. I keep Psammophids and I handle them as I would any other colubrid snake. I have photographed their dentition because it piqued my interest personally and with Rhamphiophis in particular was quite impressed with their fangs. I know people who have been bitten by Rhamphiophis and had adverse effect, yet I understand the simple fact that no-one has died from them or any other Psammophiine to my knowledge though there has been a slew of bites. We like to look at information I have most of Dr. Bryan Grieg Fry's papers concerning toxicity and evolution of colubrid venom and understand that Psammophid venoms are very complex structurally and quite potent, but not necessarily to humans. I also understand that reactions to venoms are extremely variable in humans and that they effect mice differently than humans which is the basis of much of our researc. With mice sharing between 90 and 98% (depending on the source) of the same base pair sequence it SEEMS extraordinarily similar, we have to remember that even if there was only a 1% variation that expresses to approx. 30,000,000 different base pairs or arrangement and that code and as such different pathways of reaction to venom compounds, as well as reaction from human stem cells is slightly different than those of rodents. Some species should be approached with caution, there is no doubt there, and unfortunately there is no real convenient way of knowing wether you are allergic to certain venom compounds until it happens. But on a whole, how much of a threat are these snakes to us? Not very much, though Francis had a bad reaction, he most certainly did not die from it and his seems to be the most extreme case from what us here have experienced. Does that mean that these snakes should be classified as dangerous? I would think not. Does it mean people should be warned about this species that, sure but you have to understand that using the symantics of "it could be life threatening" while there is no documentation of deaths but various reports of bites it would seem logical that most of these snakes are not deadly. As such there is no real reason to pursue rhetorically that these animals are deadly, that is my problem. Once deadly or other namesakes are used in the same sentence, we have doomed it to gross degradation in the publics eye. I know it is symantics, but it is a cultural phenomenon and preys on basic human fears, which are already stacked against snakes as the top phobia in nearly every country by well over 50% of the populace. Just be careful what you say, there is a fine line between sensationalism and being cautious.
6 december om 22:02

Bryan Grieg Fry
What he said
6 december om 22:11

Martin Habecker
Johan Marais would be a good source for information on African colubrid envenomation as well.
7 december om 4:51

Facebook, 2014:

Andries Cilliers in the group 'Snake handlers of southern Africa':

"Unmarked Cross Marked ship, caught today, tagged me twice, last photo shows the bite where he chewed a little, had a light sensation for less than a minute as turned red around site and that was it."

Facebook, 2014 (Dec. 30-31)

Wayne N Robin Fowlieshared a picture by Brian Twentythree with the group Opisthoglypha envenomations, with this commentary:

"A couple of other rear-fanged snakes which may have medically significant bites; African Beauty, or Grass Snakes ( Psamnophis sibilans )."

Ton Steehouder: What is the evidence on which you base the statement about Psammophis sibilans?
I disagree with you, you see.

Christian Nielsen A
Sibilans kills a rodent faster then a cerastes. So dont underestimate them. I have heard that many people have been bitten by them whit out any symptoms, but most have been bite and release. I can imagine a good chew give some symptoms.

30 december 2014
Wayne N Robin Fowlie
I had a bite and release from a large female P. sibilans on my wrist; swelling and reddening with bloody lymph oozing, site pain and woozy ,disoriented feeling. Quite uncomfortable, but symptoms diminished over night.

30 december 2014
Ton Steehouder
I have been chewed several time without any symptom at all.

30 december 2014
Wayne N Robin Fowlie
Old guys like me knew them as common imports with a stinging non-serious bite, I just reported my most troublesome-bothersome incident.

30 december 2014
Wayne N Robin Fowlie
Old guys like us are not so touchy and overcareful, I think. Modern people seem to live with seat belts and biker helmets on all day, so to say.

30 december 2014
Erica Ranger Loria
Ton it's all about how allergic you are to the venom or not

30 december 2014
Ton Steehouder
If allergy is the cause, it's not the venom in itself to blame. There is a difference. Venom should act regardless of allergies. Would be a problem if some prey would die and others not. 'Sorry, snake, I am not allergic, find someone else.'
Real envenomation should be well documented and there should be no other cause than the action of the venom.

Wayne N Robin Fowlie
I take a blood thinner, don't like to encourage bleeding, like from miscellaneous snake toxins.

Bryan Grieg Fry
Ton the effects reported are independent of allergy. I rate large Psammophis as easily capable of severe envenomations. Ditto with large Rhamphiophis.

Ton Steehouder
Still, it remains remarkable that there are so little cases for this snake, so many people being bitten, even prolonged. What would be an explanation?

Wayne N Robin Fowlie
The abundance of photographic sharing on social media seems to be encouraging a certain amount of machismo-masochistic snake bite encouragement, which may result in more unusual envenomations.

Martin Habecker
While it is good to be cautious with rear fanged snakes, I have kept and researched Psammophis for years and do not find them to be very keen on biting, even defensively. While it may be that Psammophis venom can kill a mouse faster than a Cerastes sp., it is not necessarily true that it will have the same effect on other mammal species. There is a myriad of idiosyncracies in mammalian physiology that gives rise to species specific receptor sites, immunological response systems, etc. that effects a species reaction to venom. I could use that same logic in reverse and say that Cerastes venom has no effect on a Mongoose(mammal) and therefore is relatively harmless, in which I would be grossly wrong. From recorded Psammophis envenomation/bites to humans the worst case scenario seems to be slightly prolonged bleeding, moderate swelling and pain accompanied with the swelling which doesn't seem to last very long, few days max. Mr. Fowlie given your medical conditions, there is a lot to control for in your case and as such, handling these animals with caution is definitely recommended, however I do think that it is a special case and that most individuals will not have a similar reaction. That being said, I think it is a bit of a jump to describe these animals as "dangerous" to humans, even indirectly. They are rear-fanged, very fast, with no recorded human deaths, or any other serious injuries for that matter, and should be treated as such. No need to sensationalize an animal that has not caused a serious envenomation when there are quite a few recorded.

Robert Twombley
I do believe a open discussion should take place, one which species might cause severe envenomation. Also as a community we need to realize that some of this species might have the capacity of delving a severe bite of medically significance. But at the same time not over emphasize the potential danger. Hopefully through self policing we can make it common knowledge that hemostats should be used when feeding this species. And come up with a general consensuses of which species should be handled with more care, such as the use of hooks, long sleeve shirts and gloves. Which should be updated and edited when new information becomes available. Something that should always be kept in mind is that. The author and or victim attempted to detail there experience after receiving a bite from a captive snake. This reports/pictures labeled (IE) cannot be accepted as empirical evidence but should be viewed as anecdotal evidence due issues involving absence of formal medical review and resulting description of physical exam, laboratory tests, and the like; subjectivity per victim as author; misinterpretation of signs/symptoms; and additional mitigating factors.
The understandable anxiety associated with snakes regularly creates a group of signs and symptoms that can mislead both patients and their physicians. This includes tachycardia, palpitations, sweating, over breathing/hyperventilation (causing acroparesthesian, tetany, lightheadedness, faintness, and syncope and in extreme causes, histrionic conversion disorders. These features are often misinterpreted as sign of envenomation and are described naively and uncritically in accounts by the victims themselves or by the authors without medical training. Autonomic response to even a medically insignificant bite can exacerbate some combinations, such as ischemic heart disease (agima) or generalized anxiety disorder (panic). Thus, attendance and review by a physician is strongly recommended in any case reported featuring medically significant effects. Pictures and or personal accounts should only be used as a vague guide, do to lacy of empirical evidence.

Christian Nielsen
I did not try to compere the effects on a mouse directly to humans, or say that i would rather have a bite from a cerastes than a psammophis. It was just to say that they are not harmless. But yours and mine experience with them biting are direct opposite, i have had psammophis species for about 10 years and i have never had one that did not turn around and bite me glove when grabbed midbody, i would not call them aggressive but definitely very defensive.
In my book a serious bite dont have to be lethal, swelling, pain and getting dizzy and stuff like that is serious enough for me, i work with my hands and big hand that hurts cant do my job. Thats why i make sure not to get bitten. A bee wont kill me either, but i still wouldn't freehandle it;)

Martin Habecker
Good points, however Mr. Nielsen your opening statement is a bit misleading if that was not your intention. I have had Psammophis for around 9yrs, so you have me beat there, and have never had any try and bite and I free-handled them in the same way I free handle Coluber and Masticophis sp. I have had a P mossambicus drop his tail while rolling to escape, I have had some close calls while photographing dentition, but never a direct strike. In my book a serious bite doesn't have to be lethal either, that would be quite silly, however a "serious" envenomation requires a bit more to it than what I would recieve by mildly hitting my thumb with a hammer, which doesn't require a hospital visit. What I am saying is, their is ample information out there from numerous sources on bites from the entire Psammophiidae family, and they do not confer the same measure of caution that is being stated in this thread. And I would strongly suggest listening to Mr. Ton Steehouder in referrence to this genera, he has been keeping these snakes for longer than I have been alive I do believe. His website is the best referrence portal for these snakes I have seen with multiple links to actual scientific research papers as well as anecdotal reports from his quite extensive collection. I hope you don't mind the plug Ton, here is his website with lots of great information on Psammophis sp. http://psammophis.nl/index.htm

Malpolon monspessulanus, France


Pommier & Haro, 2007
Philip Pommier, Luc de Haro. Envenomation by Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) with cranial nerve disturbances. Toxicon 50 (2007) 868–869


The Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) is an opisthoglyphous snake rarely implicated in human envenomation because the anatomy of its venom apparatus is generally unsuitable for venom delivery to large mammals.
The authors report one case of human envenomation by the Montpellier snake in Southern France. Envenomation occurred under exceptional circumstances (finger of patient inserted deeply into the mouth of the reptile). The clinical picture was dominated by neurological symptoms (ptosis, oculomotor paralysis). The patient recovered in 6 days with symptomatic treatment.

Just a thought. The authore mention in the Discussion: "It is noteworthy that the region of France in which this envenomation occurred is also inhabited by a population of asp vipers whose neurotoxic venom induces severe cranial nerve dysfunctions."
It would not be impossible that the Malpolon (known as a predator of vipers) very recently had swallowed a viper, and that a little of its venom remained in the mouth of the Malpolon. This would explain the symptoms in this specific case, in which the finger had been deep in the mouth of the snake.


Sacha Facchini in the Facebook group Herpétologie Batrachologie, 2018

"Bonjour à tous et à toutes.
Vendredi 27 avril à 14h.
Lors du stage que j’ai effectué dans le Var avec la soptom que je remercie au passage pour ce que j’ai pu apprendre avec eux, stage sur le suivi des populations des serpents dans la Plaine des Maures et environs grâce à des réseaux de tôles.
Une couleuvre de Montpellier femelle de 1m 13 que j’ai attrapée, que nous avons pesée, mesurée, marquée ect.. m’a, avant que je la relâche, attrapé le côté de l’index à une vitesse folle sans le lâcher, en l’espace de 4 secondes ses crochets à venin étaient plantés (je les ai bien sentis) son venin a été injecté dans mon index ensuite elle ne m’a pas lâché pendant plus de 10 min, pendant ce temps elle me mâchait et continuait à injecter son venin ,dès qu’elle m’a lâché j’ai ressenti une grosse douleur aux deux premières phalanges, 5 min plus tard mon doigt était paralysé et la douleur amplifiée puis mon doigt à gonflé, les pompiers m’ont pris en charge, ont immobilisé mon bras, une fois à l’hôpital ma main entière avait doublé, la douleur était vraiment très très forte j’avais des fourmis aux bras, ma main continuait à gonfler et me lançait énormément alors on m’a donné des anti douleur, des antibiotiques et des anti gonflements et autres médicaments, on ma fait une prise de sang et après il fallait attendre.
En tout la douleur intense a duré 6h avant de s’estomper
J’ai eu des vomissements plusieurs heures après la morsure (environ 8 ) et ils ont duré tout la soirée et la nuit
Le gonflement a duré 2 jours avant de commencer à dégonfler en quelques jours.
Mon doigt est encore paralysé et me fait légèrement mal
Voilà mon expérience d’envenimement par une couleuvre de Montpellier.
N’écoutez pas les sites internet ou autres qui disent que la couleuvre de Montpellier a un venin inoffensif pour l’homme et qu’il est difficile pour elle de l’injecter car si elle le veut elle peut l’injecter sans difficultés.
Je tiens à dire que quoi qu’il arrive si on se fait mordre par un serpent c’est notre faute car nous sommes chez eux et pas l’inverse !
J’ai oublié que c’est un serpent sauvage et donc imprévisible et j’en ai payé les conséquences."

In English:
"During the internship I did in the Var with Soptom, that I thank in passing for what I learned with them, during a training on the monitoring of snake populations in the Plaine des Maures and surrounding areas through a network of metal sheets.
A 113 cm long female Montpellier snake, that I had caught, weighed, measured, marked etc, caught, when I released it, the side of my index finger at a crazy speed and without letting go, and within 4 seconds planted her venom fangs (I felt them well) in the finger. Her venom was injected into my index when she did not release me for more than 10 minutes, during which time she chewed the finger and continued to inject her venom.
As soon as she had let go, I felt a strong pain in the first two phalanges, and 5 minutes later my finger was paralyzed. The pain increased and my finger swelled. Firemen took care of me, and immobilized my arm. When I arrived in the hospital my entire hand had doubled in size. The pain was really very very strong, I felt as if I had ants on my arms, my hand continued to inflate and gave me heavy pains, so I was given pain killers, antibiotics, medication agains swelling, and other drugs, I had a blood test and then had to wait.
In all the intense pain lasted 6 hours before fading.
I vomited during several hours after the bite (about 8) during the evening and the night.
The swelling lasted 2 days before starting to diminish, which lasted some days.
My finger is still paralyzed and hurts slightly.

This is my experience of the envenoming by a Montpellier snake.
Do not listen to websites or others who say that the Montpellier snake has a venom harmless for the man and that it is difficult for her to inject it because if she wants it she can inject it without difficulties.
I want to say that whatever happens if we get bitten by a snake it's our fault because we are at home and not the other way around!
I neglected the fact that it is a wild snake and therefore unpredictable, and I paid the consequences."

Those who are able to read French, should absolutely read the original post with all the comments. Here is the link: https://m.facebook.com/groups/194473577262964?view=permalink&id=1768236379886668
The comments are of course diverse, some relating to the tactics to get the snake to lose its grip on your finger, others point out that even a long time injecting of lots of venom did only result in temporary, relatively benign effects.



Psammophylax rhombeatus

Jason Arnold posted in comments in the Faqcebook group Reptiles of Southern Africa some pictures of the effects of a bite. "The effects of a bite are usually very mild. I've been bitten (chewed on rather) a few times and never had more than the tiniest amount of swelling. My last bite from one was quite surprising to say the least, but it wasn't enough to seek any medical attention."