Question Sheet: Delivering a Little Snake Venom


Before reading:

  1. Guess how many species of snakes there are in the world. What percentage do you think are poisonous?
  2. Why do snakes have venom?
  3. How would someone test how potent a snake’s venom is?

During reading:

  1. Why has it been easier for scientists to learn about the chemistry of venom rather than how snakes use it?
  2. List some ways that snakes use their venom.
  3. What makes it difficult to figure out how much venom a snake uses when it strikes?
  4. What might be the benefits to a snake of controlling how much venom it injects?
  5. Why do other biologists disagree with Bill Hayes’ venom-control theory? What evidence contradicts Hayes’ view?

After reading:

  1. Bill Hayes claims that snakes are “capable of making decisions.” Did the article convince you?
  2. Can you think of an experiment to compare Bill Hayes’ and Bruce Young’s ideas on snake venom? What would convince you that one or the other was right?
  3. What factors do you think it would be important to consider in judging how dangerous a snake might be?
  4. After reading this article, are you more or less afraid of snakes? If your opinion changed, explain why.


  1. Where did the serpent known as the bushmaster get its name?
  2. Underline the facts and circle the opinions in this story. How did the author distinguish between facts and opinions? Did she do it clearly?
  3. Certain scorpions, spiders, and snakes have venom. What other characteristics link these creatures?
  4. You work for a magazine and your editor wants an article called “Snakes Making Decisions?” What’s your opening line (or lead)?


Assuming there are 2,200 snake species in the world, calculate the maximum number of these species that are venomous.