'World's deadliest island' has one snake for every square meter
More than 4,000 deadly snakes call this tiny 110-acre island home, including one species with venom that can 'melt human flesh.'
Sat, Jul 05, 2014 at 01:48 PM
This is one island you wouldn't want to find yourself shipwrecked on. Ilha de Queimada Grande, a small 110-acre island off the coast of São Paulo, Brazil, is home to more than 4,000 deadly snakes, earning it the nickname of 'Snake Island.' Some reports suggest you can find one snake per square meter here. It might just be the deadliest island on Earth, according to the Huffington Post.
Even more terrifying, the island is the only known home of the golden lancehead (Bothrops insularis), one of the most venomous vipers in the world. The snake's venom is three to five times more potent than the venom of any snake found on the mainland, and it is apparently capable of "melting human flesh." Ophidiophobe or not, you'll want to stay away from this serpent.
The snakes are not timid either; the lancehead genus is responsible for 90 percent of all snakebite-related deaths in Brazil. Mostly due to the island's legendary status as a dangerous place, few people have ventured there, but tales of snake encounters with the golden lancehead do exist. The travel guidebook Atlas Obscura retells a couple of them:
"In one [tale], a fisherman unwittingly wanders onto the island to pick bananas. Naturally, he is bitten. He manages to return to his boat, where he promptly succumbs to the snake's venom. He is found some time later on the boat deck in a great pool of blood."
Naturally, the fisherman was bitten. Naturally.
"The other story is of the final lighthouse operator and his family. One night, a handful of snakes enter through a window and attack the man, his wife, and their three children. In a desperate gambit to escape, they flee towards their boat, but they are bitten by snakes on branches overhead."
While this tale sounds exaggerated, it just goes to show how feared this island is among locals.
The island was originally populated by snakes some 11,000 years ago when the landmass was still connected to mainland Brazil, before rising sea levels permanently left it isolated. The golden lancehead is believed to be related to the mainland lancehead species B. jararaca, but branched off when a common ancestor of the two snakes became stranded on the island.
Though scientists occasionally venture to the island for study, no humans call this frightening place home today. In fact, the island contains no mammal species at all (perhaps done away with by the snakes?). Birds do regularly visit the island, however — at their own risk, of course.
The golden lancehead has no known natural predators on the island. It is the predator. The island's small size is the only thing that keeps the snake's population in check.
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