Death adder

Acanthophis antarcticus

SUBFAMILY Hydrophiinae

TAXONOMY

Boa antarctica Shaw, 1794, Australia.

OTHER COMMON NAMES German: Todesotter.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

This species has an average length of 20-39 in (0.5-1 m). Unlike other elapids, it is thick bodied and thus resembles vipers. It is variable in color, ranging from light brown to nearly black, usually with a banding pattern.

DISTRIBUTION

Eastern and southern Australia.

HABITAT

The death adder inhabits grasslands to desert.

BEHAVIOR

Unlike most elapids, death adders wait for prey. They bury themselves in substrate and attract prey with a worm-like tail. The species is nocturnal and secretive.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

The death adder feeds mostly on small reptiles, but it also preys on frogs and small mammals.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

This species is live-bearing, with females giving birth to up to 20 young.

CONSERVATION STATUS Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

The death adder is considered one of the most dangerous snakes because it is so highly venomous. The death rate due to bites has declined because of the availability of antivenin and widespread knowledge of the Sutherland pressure-immobilization first-aid technique. This snake is sometimes found in urban areas. ♦

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