Western Taipan

Oxyuranus microlepidotus

Western Taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus) The Western Taipan, Oxyuranus microlepidotus is the world's most venomous land snake.
Photograph by Angus Emmott.
Oxyuranus microlepidotus distribution

Identification:

The Western Taipan may be pale to very dark brown and is often marked with dark flecks. The head is glossy black but this sometimes fades in captive snakes. The belly colour, behind the black neck region, is mustard yellow and may have orange flecks. This species grows to 2 metres. Midbody scale rows 23 (rarely 25); ventrals 211–224; anal single; subcaudals divided 54–66.

Distribution:

Found between Boulia and Hamilton (western Qld) and Goyder's Lagoon (SA). There are old records from Bourke (NSW) and, possibly, the junction of the Murray and Darling Rivers. An isolated population occurs near Coober Pedy (SA).

Habitat:

Lives on the ashy downs of Cooper Creek and the Diamantina and Georgina Rivers.

Habits:

This species is active by day and shelters in deep soil cracks.

Danger:

This is the world’s most venomous land snake with strongly neurotoxic venom (about 3 times as toxic as that of the Coastal Taipan, Oxyuranus scutellatus). Bites have resulted in severe envenomations but there have been no human deaths to date. If bitten, apply first aid and seek urgent medical attention. First aid procedure for any snakebite from the Australian Venom Research Unit.

Food:

This species only eat mammals. The Long-haired Rat (Rattus villosissimus), House Mouse (Mus musculus) and Kultarr (Antechinomys laniger) are known prey species.

Breeding:

9 to 20 eggs are laid and these take around 66 days to hatch. The hatchling snakes are around 34 cm from the tip of the snout to the base of the tail (snout-vent length).

Similar species:

The Western Taipan is most similar to the black-headed 'form' of the Western Brown snake (Pseudonaja nuchalis).

Western Taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus) Western Taipan, Oxyuranus microlepidotus
Photograph by Steve Wilson.

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