Fucoidan, a natural polysaccharide extracted from brown seaweed, inhibits the myotoxic phospholipases A(2) present in the venoms of crotalid snakes. This study evaluated the influence of molecular weight on the ability of fucoidan to prevent muscle necrosis when rapidly administered after injection of a purified myotoxin or crude venom of Bothrops asper, in a mouse model. It was hypothesized that smaller fucoidan fragments, being of higher diffusibility to tissues, might have a better neutralizing efficiency in vivo. Fucoidan was subjected to acid hydrolysis to obtain low-molecular weight fragments (F(L)), or to gel filtration to isolate its high-molecular weight fraction (F(H)). These two preparations were standardized to the same neutralizing potency by preincubation assays, and subsequently tested in vivo, by independent administration assays. Local i.m. administration of either F(H) or F(L), immediately after i.m. injection of myotoxin II, prevented nearly 50% of muscle necrosis, albeit with no difference between the two preparations. Muscle necrosis was not reduced when either F(H) or F(L) was administered by i.v. route, immediately after i.m. toxin injection. When tested against crude venom, which contains several myotoxin isoforms, the immediate in situ i.m. injection of F(H) still inhibited myonecrosis by nearly one-half of the effect recorded in the untreated group, whereas F(L) was ineffective. It is concluded that, in this model, and in contrast to expectations, the use of smaller fucoidan fragments to prevent muscle damage induced by snake venom myotoxins is not advantageous, when compared with larger fucoidan molecules.