DESERT DEATH ADDER Acanthophis pyrrhus Boulenger, 1898
This dangerous type of Death Adder is restricted to desert parts of Australia. Most specimens are orangish in colour, although grey base colour snakes are known to exist. The highly rugose scalation usually, distinguishes this snake from other Death Adders. The average adult length is about 50 cm, with females being the larger sex.
The scalation is keeled with 19-21 mid body rows, 120-160 ventrals, single anal, and 40-65 subcaudals of which about half are divided.
The Desert Death Adder is restricted to spinifex Triodia sp. country where it occurs. The removal of this grass by cattle graziers throughout most of arid Australia, has led to a dramatic decline in numbers of this species, particularly in the Northern Territory. The Desert Death Adder is most common in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, where it still occurs in massive numbers. The Author has caught over 100 specimens per night in the Pilbara, when driving along roads. The sex ratio caught was one female per ten males, although studies by myself indicate that the 'true' sex ratio in the wild is 50% males to 50% females. (Males are obviously the more mobile sex).
Desert Death Adders are more nervous in disposition than Death Adders, but are not aggressive. Desert Death Adders, are very swift moving, and appear to more actively stalk their prey than other Death Adders. Desert Death Adders appear to have a very strong preference for lizards over other food types, and when kept in captivity it takes some time to get most specimens to regularly feed on mice. Also unlike other Death Adders, Desert Death Adders have strong cannibalistic tendencies.
About 8-12 live young are born in mid to late summer. These measure about 15 cm at birth.
A 1998 reclassification resulted in specimens from parts of the Hamersleys and nearby areas in WA being assigned to the new species Acanthophis wellsei. This includes the black-headed animals from those areas. Both A. pyrrhus and A. wellsei have been bred in captivity.
Death Adder Taxonomy.
The above was from the book Australian Reptiles and Frogs by Raymond Hoser and now available on a fantastic CD-Rom along with a vast amount of other information, papers and the like on reptiles, frogs and other wildlife.