Huffpost Science

Brazil's 'Snake Island' Is The Place Of Nightmares, We're Pretty Sure

Posted: Updated:
GOLDEN LANCEHEAD VIPER
Brazil's 'Snake Island' is home to one of the most venomous vipers out there -- the golden lancehead. Here, University of Sao Paulo researcher Marcio Martins holds one snake while watching another, a deadly venomous snake living only on Ilha de Queimada Grande. | Mark Moffett/Minden Pictures/Corbis

This just may be the most terrifying place on Earth -- at least if you happen to suffer from ophidiophobia, aka fear of snakes.

About 90 miles from the city of São Paulo lies Ilha de Queimada Grande, or "Snake Island" -- a place so filled with venomous serpents that it's been called one of the "world's deadliest islands."

(Story continues below.)
deadly snake island

Scientists estimate that up to 4,000 snakes live on the 110-acre island, with some reports indicating that you can find one snake for every six square yards. The island is "more packed with snakes than the Spanish midfield is with talent," according to a Wall Street Journal article published ahead of the World Cup.

And these aren't just any snakes. Queimada Grande 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 said to be three to five times stronger than that of any mainland snake, according to Smithsonian.

Oh, and it's capable of "melting human flesh."

No wonder, then, that the lancehead genus is reportedly responsible for 90 percent of all snakebite-related deaths in Brazil.

Brazilian lore is full of references to the snakes and their deadly ways. As the travel guidebook Atlas Obscura explains, locals in the coastal towns near the island love to recount two grisly tales:

In one, 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. 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.

How did Queimada Grande become such a slithery place? At one time, the island's land mass was attached to the mainland. But rising sea levels separated the island from the coast around 11,000 years ago. Snakes that were stranded on the island were able to multiply rapidly, since there were no ground-level predators on the island.

The problem? There weren't many ground-level prey animals either. But the snakes with more toxic, fast-acting venom were able to grab migratory birds and make a quick kill--and as the golden lanceheads evolved on the island, their venom grew more potent.

Scared? Here's a handy map, just so you'll know where NOT to go.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated the island was 90 miles off the coast of São Paulo. Ilha de Queimada Grande is located about 90 miles from the city of São Paulo.

Also on HuffPost:

Close
World's Most Extreme Animals
of
Share
Tweet
Advertisement
Share this
close
Current Slide

Suggest a correction

Around the Web

Island off Brazil home to 'world's deadliest snake' that melts human flesh

This Terrifying Brazilian Island Has the Highest Concentration of Venomous ...

What It's Like on the World's Deadliest Island

Snake Island - Ilha de Queimada Grande | Atlas Obscura

Snake Island (Full Length Documentary) - YouTube

Snake island, forbidden rock off Brazil coast, is home to world's ...

Take a Trip to Snake Island - ABC News - Go.com