Coastal Taipan

Oxyuranus scutellatus

Coastal Taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus) Head of Coastal Taipan, Oxyuranus scutellatus, showing angular brow Oxyuranus scutellatus distribution Coastal Taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus) The Coastal Taipan is Australia's most dangerous land snake. Photograph by Angus Emmott. Coastal Taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus) Coastal Taipan skull.

Identification:

The Coastal Taipan is usually light olive to dark russet brown but sometimes dark grey to black.  The head has an angular brow and is lighter coloured on the face.  The eye is a reddish colour.  The belly is cream and usually marked with orange or pink flecks.  This species grows to 2.9 metres.  Midbody scale rows 21 or 23; ventrals 220–250; anal single; subcaudals divided 57–75.

Distribution:

Found in northern and eastern Australia.  It is known from north-western Western Australia, the northern Northern Territory, across Cape York Peninsula and coastally through eastern Queensland to Grafton (New South Wales).  In southern Queensland it is common near Beaudesert, Esk and Gympie.

Habitat:

Lives in open forests, dry closed forests, coastal heaths and grassy beach dunes.  It also favours cultivated areas such as cane fields.

Habits:

This species is active during day and also in early evening during hot weather.

Danger:

This is a dangerously venomous species with strongly neurotoxic
venom.  It possesses the third most toxic land snake venom known.  Many human deaths have resulted from bites by this species.  If bitten, apply first aid and seek urgent medical attention.  First aid procedure for any snakebite from the Australian Venom Research Unit.

A subspecies of the coastal Taipan occurs in New Guinea and this is also dangerously venomous. 

Food:

Only mammals are eaten.  Small rodents (Melomys spp., Rattus spp., Mus musculus), bandicoots (Isoodon macrourus, Perameles nasuta) and quolls (Dasyurus hallucatus) are known prey species.

Breeding:

7-20 eggs are laid and these take around 64-68 days to hatch.  The hatchling snakes are around 30 cm from the tip of the snout to the base of the tail.

Similar species:

This snake is most similar to the Eastern Brown Snake (Pseudonaja textilis) which has a shorter, more rounded head and different scale counts.  It also resembles the Mulga Snake (Pseudechis australis), which has a broader head, no orange or pink flecks on the belly and different scale counts.

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