MAINLAND OR COASTAL TAIPAN Oxyuranus scutellatus (Peters, 1867)
This deadly 2 metre snake is found along the coast and nearby areas of Queensland and far north NSW. It is also found in tropical parts of the Northern Territory, including Melville and Bathurst Islands, the West Kimberley’s of Western Australia, and parts of New Guinea. The New Guinea subspecies is known as O. scutellatus canni. The West Australian subspecies is formally described below. The nominate subspecies O. scutellatus scutellatus is believed to be confined to the east coast of Queensland and the adjacent parts of the Gulf of Carpentaria.
The Mainland Taipan is recognizable by it’s coffin shaped head. Large Taipans (all types) are by popular definition, the deadliest land snakes on earth. Prior to the development of antivenom, hardly anyone survived a "proper" bite from this snake.
The scalation is smooth with 21-23 mid body rows, 220-250 ventrals, single anal and 45-80 divided subcaudals.
The fast moving diurnal Mainland Taipan is one of Australia’s most dangerous snakes, it is common in a variety of habitats, and is abundant in the sugar cane growing areas of Queensland, where it thrives on introduced rats and mice. Herpetologists in north Queensland capture most specimens around 'wind rows', which are found in newly cleared areas.
This species is caught in large numbers around Julatten, north of Cairns, Queensland. The Mainland Taipan is however an opportunistic feeder, preying on a range vertebrates. It will let go of its prey after biting it, waiting for its venom to kill the prey. It has very keen senses of smell and sight and is able detect even the slightest movements.
Although a very shy species, the Mainland Taipan will stand it’s ground when cornered, and strike rapidly often inflicting multiple bites. Humans have been known to die within an hour from the bite of this snake.
Male combat occurs in this species.
7-20 eggs are laid by this snake in summer. This species readily breeds in captivity. Hatchlings measure 280 mm to 505 mm (average 450 mm).
THE ABOVE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN A PAPER TITLED
"AN OVERVIEW OF THE TAIPANS, GENUS (OXYURANUS) (SERPENTES:ELAPIDAE) INCLUDING THE DESCRIPTION OF A NEW SUBSPECIES".
BY RAYMOND HOSER
Originally Published in Crocodilian - Journal of the Victorian Association of Amateur Herpetologists 3(1), pages 43-50 - May 2002
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