Australia is an amazing country with magnificent landscapes and sprawling cities. It’s also home to some of the most dangerous animals on the planet.
Let’s take a closer look at one of these so you can learn the most interesting facts about the coastal taipan, a venomous snake you don’t really want to encounter any time soon.
1. It’s native to Australia and a large island just to its north
The coastal taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus) is also sometimes referred to as the “common taipan” and is native to 3 different countries:
- The northern and eastern parts of Australia.
- The western part of New Guinea that consists of the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua.
- The eastern part of New Guinea that comprises the country Papua New Guinea.
Even though its name suggests that it only lives near coastal areas, it can be found much further inland as well, up to hundreds of kilometers away from the ocean.
The coastal taipans on the island of New Guinea are mostly found in the southern part of Papua New Guinea. This is a subspecies called “Oxyuranus scutellatus canni.”
2. It’s the third-most venomous snake in the world
To say that this is a dangerous snake is an understatement. That’s because it’s considered to be the third-most venomous snake in the world based on its median lethal dose of toxin.
Only the inland taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus), a member of the same genus living in arider regions of Australia, and the eastern brown snake ((Pseudonaja textiles), a snake occurring in the eastern and southeastern parts of Australia, are considered to be more venomous.
3. It’s the longest venomous snake in Australia
Apart from the fact that it’s an extremely venomous creature, it appears to be particularly scary because of its size.
With an average length of mature individuals between 1.5 and 2 meters (4.9 and 6.6 feet), it’s the longest venomous snake in all of Australia.
The weight of a mature snake with a length of 2 meters (6.6 feet) is about 3 kilos (6.6 lb).
4. It’s closely related to one of its family members in Africa
The coastal taipan is a member of the genus “Oxyuranus,” often simply referred to as “taipans,” types of venomous and fast-moving snakes mostly endemic to Australia and New Guinea.
Taipans are in turn members of the family “Elapidae” or “elapids.” This family of snakes can be found in warm and tropical regions all around the world, including Asia, Australia, Africa, and the Americas.
The closest family member of the coastal taipan remarkably isn’t native to Australia but to Africa and is known as the African black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis). This resemblance is noticed both in appearance and behavior.
5. This snake actively hunts small animals
Even though this snake is considered to be extremely dangerous, that’s mainly because of its extremely potent venom and the fact that it delivers as much venom as possible with every bite.
The good news is that these snakes aren’t actively looking to bite you but rather evade confrontations. It will, however, bite repeatedly if it feels threatened in some way.
The unlucky creatures that have to fear this venomous predator are small animals such as rats, mice, bandicoots (a type of marsupial), and various types of birds.
This is for the simple reason that they make up the diet of this ferocious snake.
More interesting facts about the coastal taipan
6. The range of the coastal taipan is pretty big, mainly because they can adapt to multiple types of habitat. They can be found in both wet, tropical regions, as well as dry woodlands.
Grasslands are also a type of habitat that they can be found in. The only place you won’t find them is in areas in which the winter temperature is below 20 °C (68 °F) as they solely prefer warm environments.
7. Even though the snake is considered to be the third-most venomous snake in the world based on its median lethal dose of toxins, its venom also features taipoxin.
This is the strongest venom found in snakes. Because it features so much taipoxin, the coastal taipan can be described as the most venomous creature on the planet.
This is not something to take lightly as it’s the most lethal neurotoxin found in any snake today, causing paralysis of the respiratory muscles. Without treatment, the fatality rate of a bite is 100%.
8. The biggest coastal taipan on record had a length of 2.9 meters (9.5 feet) and had an astounding weight of 6.5 kilos (14 lb).
Even though this is officially the biggest coastal taipan in the world, it’s assumed that much bigger individuals are roaming around somewhere. Some snakes might even reach a length of 3.3 meters (11 feet).
9. This type of snake has very good eyes, mainly because they actively move around to find prey.
Once they have located the unfortunate victim, they patiently wait to strike. They quickly deliver several venomous bites and let the victim wander off.
They do this to avoid being hurt themselves in case a rat or bird strikes back. It doesn’t take that long before their prey succumbs from the lethal dose of venom it was injected with, and that’s the time they move in to eat.
10. The color of this dangerous animal ranges from olive to reddish-brown. Some individuals might also have a dark grey to black color, so this is not the uniform coloration.
What is, though, is that the face is much lighter in color than the body of the snake. The sides of the body and belly of the snake also have a creamy white color.
Finally, these snakes also change in color based on the season. They are much darker in the winter and their color fades in the summer. Their eyes, however, are relatively large and have a brown to hazel color, big enough to see unsuspecting prey roaming around.