13 Intriguing Facts About Andaman Krait
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13 Intriguing Facts About Andaman Krait

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The Andaman krait is a highly venomous snake found in the Andaman Islands. With its sleek black body marked by white bands, the Andaman krait is both beautiful and dangerous.

This snake’s venom is extremely potent and can cause paralysis, which often leads to suffocation if left untreated. Yet there is still much mystery surrounding the Andaman krait and its lethal powers.

Here are 13 intriguing facts about this lesser-known serpent of the sea:

Introduction

The Andaman Islands are a remote archipelago in the Bay of Bengal, closer to Myanmar and Thailand than the Indian mainland. Lush rainforests cloak these picturesque isles, which were long home solely to indigenous tribes.

In this isolated habitat evolved the Andaman krait, also called the Andaman Island krait or Blue krait. Reaching over 2 meters in length, this snake is the sole member of its unique species Bungarus andamanensis.

While related to other kraits on the Indian subcontinent, the Andaman krait has adapted to its island environment. Its potent venom and distinctive markings serve as a vital defense mechanism.

Yet there is still relatively little known about the Andaman krait compared to other snakes. From its varying venom composition to its role in the island ecosystem, this serpent remains full of secrets.

1. It Preys on Other Snakes

As a fierce hunter and predator, the Andaman krait mainly feeds on other snakes across the Andaman Islands. Its venom helps it rapidly immobilize other serpents, even those that are venomous themselves.

In particular, the Andaman krait is a regular predator of the Andaman cobra. It also feeds on smaller species like sea snakes.

2. Small Head, Slender Body

While the Andaman krait can grow over 6 feet long, its head is very small and narrow compared to other snakes. This allows it to easily navigate through small spaces and dense island vegetation.

Its slender body enables smooth, rapid movement to catch other snakes unawares. When threatened, the krait can deliver multiple quick bites with its small fangs.

3. Highly Potent Venom

The venom of the Andaman krait is extraordinarily powerful. Drop for drop, it is among the most toxic snake venoms in the world.

Unlike some cobra species that spit venom from a distance, kraits must actually bite to inject their toxins. But the potency of the Andaman krait’s venom means just 1-2 mg is enough to kill an adult human.

4. Venom Composition Varies

Interestingly, the venom composition of the Andaman krait can differ depending on its diet and habitat. Island populations of the snake tend to have slightly different venom makeup.

In general, the venom contains powerful neurotoxins and cardiotoxins that paralyze muscle function and disrupt heart activity. Specific toxins like haditoxin can rapidly block nerve signals.

Researchers are still studying how the venom varies across the Andamans and what exact mixture makes it so potent.

5. Causes of Paralysis and Suffocation

The swift acting toxins in the Andaman krait’s venom quickly paralyze muscles after a bite. Usually starting around the eyes and mouth, this paralysis soon spreads to the diaphragm and other critical respiratory muscles.

Ultimately, paralysis of breathing leads to suffocation unless antivenom is rapidly administered. Patients are unable to breathe without medical intervention and die within hours.

6. Nocturnal Hunter

The Andaman krait is primarily nocturnal, hunting more actively at night across the islands. This helps avoid daytime heat.

Its large eyes likely help it spot prey easily after dark. The krait’s pale bands also stand out vividly at night.

7. Lays Eggs

Like most kraits, the Andaman species is oviparous – it lays eggs rather than giving birth to live young. Females lay clutches of 6-13 eggs in burrows, tree hollows, termite mounds, or other sheltered spots.

They often return to the same nesting sites year after year. The baby snakes hatch after 60-80 days and quickly disperse.

8. Arboreal Habits

While it often hunts on the ground, the Andaman krait spends much of its time in trees and bushes. It is quite an adept climber, using its slender body to navigate branches and vines.

Interestingly, the krait has also been observed climbing cave walls on some of the Andaman Islands.

9. Camouflage and Warning

The Andaman krait’s jet black body and pearly white bands serve an important purpose beyond looking beautiful. This striking coloration helps camouflage the snake within the dappled island rainforest.

The contrasting bands may also warn potential predators that this snake is dangerous. Of course, its lethal bite provides an added layer of defense against animals that don’t heed the warning!

10. Mild Mannered

Despite having highly toxic venom, the Andaman krait is generally mild mannered and reclusive. It tends to avoid confrontation when possible.

Bites often happen when humans accidentally step on or touch the snake. It may strike defensively, especially if taken by surprise.

11. Unknown Conservation Status

Due to the remote, hard to study environment of the Andaman Islands, the conservation status of the endemic krait is largely unknown.

There is little data on the current population size or stability. However, the IUCN Red List categorizes the species as Vulnerable based on its small native range and isolated island habitats.

12. Features in Folklore

The indigenous tribes of the Andaman Islands tell stories of the islands being created by a giant snake that became the land. Local folklore also describes men who could morph into snakes at will.

While fanciful, these legends highlight the cultural significance and aura of mystery surrounding Andaman’s serpents.

13. Antivenom Shortage

As one of the most lethal snakes in the world, the Andaman krait poses major risks to island inhabitants and visitors. Yet supplies of effective antivenom are dangerously low.

Producing and properly storing antivenom in a remote tropical climate is challenging. Lack of profit potential means few pharmaceutical firms maintain adequate stockpiles. This leaves doctors reliant on makeshift treatments that are often ineffective.

Conclusion

With its tiny head, slender body, and banded beauty, the Andaman krait perfectly blends into its island rainforest home. Yet beneath its mild-mannered ambiance lies the constant threat of lethal paralysis.

Still cloaked in mystery, the Andaman krait remains an obscure inhabitant of a lesser-known land – one whose secrets we have only begun to unravel. Its potent venom could someday help develop new medicines, even as it endangers island residents.

Ultimately, the precarious place of the Andaman krait serves as a warning – a reminder that the world’s most dangerous creatures often come in alluring packages. Respecting the deadliness of nature is key to our safe coexistence.


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