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Dangerous Spiders and Snakes

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dangerous spiders and snakesDangerous spiders and snakes provide you with the opportunity to explore the reasons why some animals are dangerous. These activities are centred around the theme of environment and nature from the IGCSE ESL curriculum, which explores the way humans and animals live, adapt, and change on our planet. We will practice our listening and reading skills by learning how we should be careful to avoid dangerous spiders and snakes and what to do if we are bitten by one.

Exercise 1Exercise 2Exercise 3Word ListExtension
Do you know which is the most venomous spider? Watch the video and answer the questions. Name two spiders the video mentions.

Click here to view the transcript and answers

1. Daddy Long Legs
2. Brazilian Wandering Spider


Spiders are all around us. There are over thirty-five thousand different species and one study of homes in South Carolina found spiders present in one hundred per cent of them! Most spiders do not pose a threat to humans and are actually quite helpful in keeping populations of other bugs in check.

However, there are some species whose bites and venom can be extremely dangerous. There is a common misconception that the Daddy Long Legs is the most venomous spider but that their fangs can’t pierce human skin. In truth, Daddy Long Legs do occasionally bite people, however, their venom will produce a mild irritation at worst.

According to scientists, the most venomous spider on the planet today is actually the Brazilian Wandering Spider, which got its name because it roams the forest floor looking for prey. A single bite from one of these spiders and you will instantly feel pain. Immediate symptoms include inflammation of the skin with severe burning and redness, goose bumps, and sweating. Their venom is strong enough to quickly kill bugs, birds, small rodents, and even young children! But in adults, the venom generally takes longer to work. As it courses through the bloodstream further symptoms like blurred vision, nausea, erratic heartbeats, chills, and uncontrollable shaking can occur. There have even been instances of a strange side-effect in men where it can make your you-know-what painfully swell and cause permanent damage! While the symptoms are very unpleasant, actual deaths from Brazilian Wandering Spider bites are rare.

Out of the more than 7,000 bites that have been reported, there are only ten deaths that have been attributed to the Brazilian Wandering Spider. That said, medical treatment is still required so that an anti-venom can be administered. And while Brazilian Wandering Spiders are only native to South America, there have been news stories of them travelling along with banana shipments to other countries. So the next time you’re picking out fruit at the grocery store you may want to be extra careful.

Click here to view transcript

Welcome everyone I know that you were about to head off to hike in the Australian bush. No doubt this will be an interesting and memorable experience for you. On the whole, the Australian bush is relatively safe for humans. However, it would not be entirely true to say that it is completely without danger. Although there are no man-eating lions are rampaging elephants in the Australian bush there are some animals that can be dangerous if you are a lucky enough to encounter and disturbed them. So in my talk today we’re going to give you some information about these special animals and a few tips on what to do if someone is bitten.

Many people hate spiders and snakes. They see them as dangerous and deadly and try to get rid of them. I am not a pest exterminator and I am a naturalist and happen to think that scorpions are beautiful and that snakes and spiders are fascinating.

Animals that are dangerous to us predators which means they prey on other animals for food. To do this they need weapons to kill their prey; sharp teeth, strong claws, or poison. By the way, did you ever stopped to think that humans are predators too? We also killed for food. However, we don’t actually do the kill ourselves modern humans just need to make a trip to the local market. Unlike us, most predators have to do their killing the hard way by catching their food in the wild when they are hungry. For most snakes and spiders the common weapon is venom. Of course, humans are not food for spiders and snakes.

In fact, if humans disturb or threaten them, they will usually try to escape. But they may also use their weapons to defend themselves. So because we know this we need to know how to defend ourselves against them too. This does not mean however that we need to kill them.

Read the article about snakes and the questions below it.

Snakes are reptiles. There are more than 2900 species in the world. Lizards, alligators, and turtles are also reptiles. Snakes are cold-blooded creatures. That means that their internal temperature adjusts to the climate they are in. They lie in the sun to raise their temperature. If they are too hot, they can lower their temperature by going into the shade. Snakes which live in cold climates hibernate in the winter to avoid the cold temperatures.

Snakes live everywhere. They live in deserts, ponds, rivers, forests, oceans, streams and lakes. They live on the ground and in trees. They cannot live anywhere the ground stays frozen all year long, so there are no snakes in Antarctica or above the Arctic Circle. Ireland and New Zealand have no snakes.

A snake's body is covered with scales. These are waterproof and help the snake to move over rough ground or branches because they give them a grip on what they need to move from. Scales are made of layers of cells. The outer layer is made up of dead cells, while the layers underneath are alive. A few times each year, a snake will shed the outer dead layer of cells, and the new ones underneath become the outer layer. When a snake is ready to shed its skin, it will rub up against something rough, tear the layer off from around its mouth and slide out.

Snakes are vertebrates. That means that they have backbones. A snake's vertebrae are attached to ribs. They are so flexible because they have two hundred to four hundred vertebrae and an equal number of ribs. Human beings have only thirty-three vertebrae and twenty-four ribs. This help protects the inner organs, like in humans.

A snake's throat is very long and takes up one-third of its body. Its stomach can stretch to fit just about anything it can swallow. A snake's two lungs are very long. It has kidneys and intestines also. The end of its body has an opening for the snake to get rid of waste. The tail beyond is more bone.

Snakes have four ways of moving using their muscles and scales. The serpentine method is what snakes normally use for movement. They slither forward in a wavy motion. In the concertina method, the snake pushes the front of its body forward and then drags them back part up to meet it. It is good for small areas. Sidewinding is used on a slippery surface. A snake throws its head forward. The rest of its body follows. In the rectilinear method, the snake moves forward in a straight line. Some of the scales grip the ground while others push forward.

Snake jaws are not like those of a human. They are not connected at the back of their mouths. They can open much wider than the mouths of humans. While they are putting some huge prey into their mouths, a small tube at the bottom of their mouth comes out to help them breathe.

Only poisonous snakes have fangs, although all snakes have teeth. These fangs are long sharp teeth connected to sacs behind the snake's eyes. These sacs contain venom, a poisonous liquid. As soon as a snake bites, the venom is released. It will paralyze or kill its prey. If a fang is lost, another will grow. Sometimes a snake will hold onto the prey until it dies and then eats it. Sometimes it will let the prey go and follow it until it dies and then eats it.

In some countries, people catch poisonous snakes and get the venom out of them to be used to make an anti-venom medicine to help those who get snake bites. Snakes can keep on producing more venom. Sea snakes are the most poisonous snakes. Adders, Cottonmouths, Cobras, Rattlesnakes, and Copperheads are also poisonous.

1. Which of the following is a poisonous snake?

2. Which of the following is a true statement?

3. Which of the following countries have no snakes?

4. Which of the following is the normal means of moving a snake uses?

5. In which of the following places are the sacs of venom located?

6. Which of the following is a true statement?


Here are keywords and phrases covered in the talk about dangerous spiders and snakes:

  • Australian bush
  • best defence
  • bloodstream
  • common weapon
  • danger
  • dangerous spiders and snakes
  • defend
  • disturb
  • encounter
  • fangs
  • hibernate
  • humans
  • naturalist
  • medical treatment
  • pest exterminator
  • poison
  • predators
  • serpentine method
  • sharp teeth
  • snakes
  • strong claws
  • spiders
  • symptoms
  • threaten
  • venom
  • venomous
  • vertebrates
1. Have you heard a story of a snake being found in a strange place? Write a news report about a spider or snake that someone has found in your local community.
2. What really gives you the creeps? If you ever enjoyed a fright hearing a scary campfire story, how about writing a creepy story yourself about spiders or snakes.
3. Listen to a humorous song about Spiders and Snakes by Jim Stafford.

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