An inland taipan’s venom is around 50 times as toxic as an Indian cobra’s venom. This means that this snake is believed to have the second most lethal bite of all snakes in the world.
The inland taipan snake lives in remote, arid regions of eastern Australia. It is a medium-large snake, averaging between 6 and 7 feet long. While its hollow fangs are less than an inch long, the inland taipan snake can inject enough venom with 1 bite to kill over 100 adult humans. This venom is particularly potent for mammals, because this snake almost exclusively eats rodents. Inland taipan snake venom works rapidly and can kill a human in as little as 30 or 40 minutes.
Despite the lethality of its venom, it is rare for humans to die from its bite. In fact, there are no recorded instances of a person dying from an inland taipan snake bite in modern Australian history. It comes down to a combination between this snake’s remote, solitary behavior and antivenom.
Inland Taipan Species Information
The inland taipan snakes is a solitary, terrestrial snake from Australia. It is known for its quick, agile movement and its fiercely toxic venom, which is particularly lethal to mammals.
Inland Taipan Snake Basic Stats
Let’s start with some basic information about the inland taipan snake:
- Scientific Name: Oxyuranus microlepidotus, meaning “sharp tail, small scale”
- Other Names: Fierce Snake, Lignum Snake, Small-Scaled Snake, Dandarabilla, Western Taipan
- Average Length: 6 to 7 feet
- Record Length: nearly 9 feet
- Hatchling Length: 18 inches
- Fang Length: less than an inch (3.5 to 6.2 millimeters)
- Midbody Scales: 23 rows
- Lifespan Range: 10 to 15 years
Inland Taipan Snake Identification
This medium-large snake has a rectangular-shaped head. Its large eyes have a round pupil and a dark brown, nearly black iris.
Its dorsal scales are a shade of brown, anywhere between a pale tan, to a yellow brown, to a darker brown. The inland taipan snake’s head is usually several shades darker than the rest of its body and may even be black in color. An inland taipan snake has a lighter yellow belly, usually with orange blotches.
This scale color changes throughout the year – the snake is darker in color during the winter, and lighter in color during the summer. The color change may allow the inland taipan snake to absorb more sunlight in the colder months of the year, while avoiding overheating itself during the warmer months of summer.
This snake is very similar in appearance to the eastern brown snake and the western brown snake, and so these 3 snake species are often confused for each other.
This snake is also commonly mistaken for the closely related coastal taipan snake. The difference is in the snake’s neck. The coastal taipan snake has a distinct neck which is clearly different from the head. The inland taipan snake, on the other hand, does not have a distinct neck.
Where Does This Snake Live?
This desert snake originates in eastern Australia. It prefers an arid climate with sparse vegetation, taking shelter in cracks and crevices in the rocky ground.
You will find it mainly in Australian floodplains and dunes, away from areas more populated by humans. Very few humans choose to live in this hot, dry, remote land. The snake deals with the heat by hiding in underground burrows and cracks.
When Is This Snake Active?
An inland taipan snake is diurnal and most active during the early morning. It will bask in the sun and forage for food in nearby animal burrows. Then the snake will seek shelter to hide in for the rest of the day.
When the weather is cooler, you may find an inland taipan snake active outside of its den in the afternoon as well.
What Does This Snake Eat?
This snake is a carnivore. In the wild, an inland taipan snake feeds on small mammals, including long-haired rats and house mice. The long-haired rat is this snake’s favorite food, as it breeds in high numbers throughout the year.
In captivity, an inland taipan snake thrives well on mice and rats. They may also be fed small birds, but these snakes almost exclusively prefer to eat mammals.
How Does This Snake Reproduce?
Mating season for an inland taipan snake is during late winter. The male snakes will fight each other in a sort of ritual combat which can go on for a half-hour or more. In these fights, the snakes will strike at each other with their mouths closed, asserting dominance without biting each other.
The female inland taipan snake will lay its eggs in the middle of spring. It will usually leave these eggs in an abandoned animal burrow. In captivity, these snakes can produce 1 or 2 clutches of eggs in a single breeding season.
- Male Reproductive Maturity Age: 16 months
- Female Reproductive Maturity Age: 28 months
- Clutch Size Range: 11 to 20 eggs
- Clutch Size Average: 16 eggs
- Egg Size: around 2 inches
- Incubation Period: 9 to 11 weeks
- Incubation Temperature: 27 to 30 degrees Celsius
What Threatens This Snake?
The inland taipan snake has very few predators in the wild. A few larger reptiles, such as the mulga snake and the perentie monitor lizard, are immune to the snake’s venom and will eat young inland taipan snakes.
Inland taipan snake populations are more likely to suffer as a result of human expansion, which results in the loss of the snake’s habitat.
Additionally, inland taipan snake populations are negatively affected by the introduction of non-native predators to Australia, such as cats and foxes. These animals compete with the snakes for their rodent choice of prey, the long-haired rat. When there are not enough rodents for the snakes to eat, their numbers go down.
The inland taipan snake is protected by Australian law, just like all other Australian snakes. It is not considered an endangered species, because it is common enough within its normal range of territory.
Inland Taipan Snake Bite Info
The inland taipan snake is an active hunter. When an inland taipan snake hunts its prey, it will corner the rodent in a small burrow or crack in the ground. It will then rapidly bite its prey several times in a row.
When provoked, an inland taipan snake will initially perform a threat display. This display involves the snake lifting up its forebody, creating a tight S-shaped curve. It faces its head towards the threat.
If the threat does not leave, the inland taipan snake will strike. It may bite once or many times quickly. An inland taipan snake has an incredibly accurate bite, and it nearly always envenoms it target.
Inland Taipan Snake Teeth
This snake has small teeth, featuring 2 short fangs fixed at the front of the snake’s jaw. These fangs are only a fraction of an inch long, ranging in size from 3.5 to 6.2 millimeters.
As a result, it can sometimes be difficult to find the bite marks at first when an inland taipan snake has bitten its victim. In this case, a small bite is no less dangerous than a large one.
These fangs are hollow and thin, with a beveled tip. The teeth work like a syringe to inject the snake’s venom into its prey.
How Dangerous Is It?
Cases of an inland taipan snake biting a human are few and far between. The inland taipan snake has a relatively calm and placid temperament. The “fierce” in its “fierce snake” nickname refers to the potency of the snake’s venom, rather than its attitude or behavior.
This snake prefers to hide from humans, and it is rarely found outside of its remote, arid habitat. An inland taipan snake also only spends a brief amount of time each day outside of its den. Your odds of running into this snake in a wild at all, let alone being bitten by one, are very low.
However, just because a bite is uncommon, that does not mean that a bite is not dangerous. Like any snake, the inland taipan snake will defend itself when it is provoked.
If you are bitten by an inland taipan snake, you may be envenomated by one of the most toxic snake venoms in the world. At this point, immediately seeking medical attention is critical.
Inland Taipan Snake Venom Facts
While most snakes are generalist hunters, the inland taipan specializes in hunting mammals. Consequently, this snake’s venom is particularly potent for warm-blooded animals.
Mammals require a higher toxicity level of venom to slow down than reptiles do, and so inland taipan snakes have evolved to inject an extremely lethal venom. Venom from an inland taipan snake bite also works very quickly. Without treatment, this venom could kill someone in under an hour – usually 30 to 45 minutes.
While many venomous snakes will bite and then release its prey, waiting for it to gradually die, the inland taipan snake can hold onto its prey. It does not need to worry about the wounded prey fighting back in close quarters, given how quickly the prey will die from the envenomation.
According to the Medical Journal of Australia, antivenom made from an inland taipan snake’s venom is an effective treatment for its bites. Thanks to the availability of antivenom and the low frequency of inland taipan snake bites, humans rarely die from inland taipan snake bites.
How Toxic Is This Venom?
Snake venom toxicity is measured according to a Lethal Dose 50 number, or LD50. This number is found by injecting live mice with the venom and figuring out how much venom is required to kill 50% of the animals in the test. The smaller the LD50 number, the more toxic the snake’s venom is.
The LD50 of an inland taipan snake is just 0.025mg/kg. This means that a single bite from one of these snakes could kill nearly 250,000 mice. Scientists estimate that a single bite from an inland taipan snake is lethal enough to kill over 100 adult humans.
According to the Australian Veterinary Journal, the inland taipan has the second most toxic snake venom in Australia. This snake’s venom ranks just behind the venom of the eastern brown snake and just ahead of the venom of the coastal taipan snake, a close relative of the inland taipan snake.
Inland Taipan Snake Venom Composition
The venom of the inland taipan snake contains a combination of neurotoxins and hemotoxins. These compounds affect the envenomated mammal’s body in different ways.
Neurotoxins target the victim’s nervous system. They prevent neurons from communicating with each other. This results in loss of muscle control, difficulty breathing, and even outright muscular paralysis.
Hemotoxins are anticoagulants. Coagulation is how your body protects you from bleeding to death; blood is able to coagulate, or clot to stop up a wound. Hemotoxins interrupt the body’s ability to clot blood. This can result in internal bleeding or hemorrhage.
Venom from an inland taipan snake also has a hyaluronidase enzyme, also known as a “spreading factor.” This enzyme is what causes the venom to work so quickly. It increases the rate which the venom is absorbed into a person’s body.
Antivenom counteracts the neurotoxins and hemotoxins, stopping them from causing any more damage to the human body. It does not, however, automatically and completely undo the damage caused by the venom.
Inland Taipan Snake Venom Symptoms
If you are bitten by an inland taipan snake, symptoms of envenomation proceed quickly. Early symptoms of an inland taipan snake bite may include the following:
- Abdominal pain
- Numbness near the bite
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty breathing
- Weakness leading to collapse
Which symptoms appear and how quickly they appear depends on how much venom the snake injected. If the snake has longer fangs, it may inject more venom than an individual with slightly shorter fangs.
The hardiness of the individual person is also a factor; young children and the elderly are particularly at risk when it comes to a venomous snake bite. If treatment is delayed, symptoms may increase in severity.
- Internal bleeding
- Respiratory failure
- Muscular paralysis
- Death of muscle tissue
- Organ damage
While antivenom will neutralize the venom’s toxins and prevent further damage, continued medical treatment will be necessary to repair the damage from these symptoms. The sooner you get treated with antivenom, the less severe the symptoms will be.
Does Venom Potency Change with Age?
There is a common myth that a young venomous snake is more dangerous than an adult snake. According to the myth, this is because the young snake’s venom has a higher toxicity level, or because the young snake injects more venom than the adult.
This is not the case with the inland taipan snake. Toxicon reports that there is no significant difference between the amount or quality of venom produced by a juvenile inland taipan snake or an adult of the same species. This snake’s venom has the same composition of proteins and median lethal dose throughout its lifetime.
Does This Snake Always Inject Venom?
Inland taipan snakes nearly always inject venom when they bite. However, it is possible for the snake to choose not to inject any venom.
This is because venom takes energy for the snake to create, and it is also possible for the snake to run out of venom. If the snake runs out of venom, it will not be able to feed itself as well.
Therefore, an inland taipan snake will budget its defensive resources. It is much more likely to flee from you than bite you. Additionally, it is very rare for inland taipan snake bites to come without warning. The snake will nearly always perform a defensive display before it strikes.
Even if you believe you have not been injected with any venom, if you are bitten by an inland taipan snake, always seek out medical help. Remain calm, but still treat the bite as though it were a serious threat.
After learning about the inland taipan snake species, especially about its bite and its venom, you now understand the incredible power of this animal. Despite this power, you have very little to fear from an inland taipan snake bite. Just admire this snake from a safe distance.