HERPTILE 10 (3), 1985, PAGE 96

Genetic composition of Death Adders (Acanthophis
; Serpentes: Elapidae) in the West Head Area.

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Female Death Adder from West Head, NSW, Australia.Male Death Adder from West Head, NSW, Australia.

What follows is a text only version of the same article (no italics) and without the photos and other material that appeared in the original magazine. Please download the entire article if desired, however if the article is later referred to, please cite Herptile as the original published source. Publication details are that it was published in Volume 10, number 3, page 96.

Death Adders Mating - both from Cottage Point/West Head, NSW, Australia. INTRODUCTION AND FURTHER DETAILS.

The West Head/Kurringai Chase area of Sydney, Australia (Lat. 33' 32' S:, Long. 151' 15' E) has habitat and wildlife typical for the area; the Death Adder (Acanthophis antarcticus) occurs here in two colour morphs, Red and Grey.

Whilst the two forms occur together and interbreed, they remain distinct and intermediate forms do not occur; Red is apparently the dominant allele/morph.

In a sample of thirty six snakes from the West Head area ten were grey. This suggests the following genetic makeup, based on the Hardy-Weinberg Law (eg, Keeton 1980).

The persistence of the recessive gene (grey) would suggest it enjoys some survival advantage over the dominant red. Although these animals may represent a biased sample that does not reflect uniformly on the entire population, A. antarcticus is not unique in having these two distinct colour forms. For example the Ant-hill Python (Liasis perthensis), Burton's Legless Lizard (Lialis burtonis) and the Common Froglet (Ranidella signifera) all show the same phenomenon. As the evolution of red and grey morphs has occurred on a number of occasions and in different taxa it presumably reflects conditions imposed by local habitat.

(See Hoser this issue of Herptile (paper on breeding Death Adders).


Keeton, W. T. (1980)

Biological Science

W.W. Norton, New York. USA

Raymond Hoser has been an active herpetologist for about 30 years and published over 120 papers in journals worldwide. He has written seven books including the definitive works "Australian Reptiles and Frogs", "Endangered Animals of Australia" and the controversial best sellers "Smuggled - The Underground Trade in Australia's Wildlife", "Smuggled-2", "Victoria Police Corruption" and "Victoria Police Corruption - 2"

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Papers about reptiles and frogs - papers that can be downloaded.

Australian Reptiles and Frogs - The Definitive book on the subject.

Victorian Herpetological Society Home page

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