Slideshow: Secrets of Snakes

Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their 3000 species have conquered almost every corner of the planet. They play key roles in religion and mythology—and even now snakebites kill an estimated 100,000 people annually.

These days, molecular biologists, too, are falling under the spell of snakes, pursuing the secrets of their bizarre anatomy and powerful venoms. To mark the publication of the first two snake genomes, Science reporters take a close look at the work of scientists who were bitten—in some cases literally—by snakes.

Read more in this week's issue:

Genes for Extremes

The first two snake genomes, published this week, reflect the amazing evolutionary tales of a prey-crushing python and a venomous cobra.

From Toxins to Treatments

Researchers are hoping to find lifesaving drugs in the deadly venoms from snakes and other animals. (Subscriber only)

The Freek Show

Snake scientist Freek Vonk can’t choose between research and starring in wildlife documentaries. And so far, he doesn’t have to. (Subscriber only)

Island of the Snakes

The invasive brown tree snake has devastated Guam’s ecosystems. Can it be eradicated? (Subscriber only)