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What Is a Taipan?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 March 2014
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Of all the venomous snakes in the world, perhaps none require so much respect and awe as the taipan. This genus, which consists of three distinct species, is known for size, speed, and incredibly potent venom. The taipan genus is native to Australia and Asia; despite extraordinarily venomous capabilities, all three members of the genus are believed to eat mostly small birds and rodents.

Holding the reining title of most venomous snake alive, the inland taipan leads a mostly quiet life in the baking, cracked deserts of eastern inland Australia. Coloring of this large snake may range from dark grown to pale yellow, and it may adapt seasonally with color changes. Adult inland taipans can reach six feet (1.8 m) in length. Nocturnal during hot weather, taipans of this species prefer to wait out hot weather in sheltered cracks in the earth or animal burrows.

Though undeniably deadly, the inland taipan is not considered a highly dangerous snake, in part because of its extremely remote natural habitat. Though bites have been reported, no human deaths are attributed to the species, thanks to an efficient anti-venom. Despite that, many are still fascinated by the venomous capacity of this magnificent snake. According to some estimates, one bite from an inland taipan can carry enough venom to kill about 100 adult humans.

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The coastal taipan prefers the moist regions of Queensland, Australia, where the great rainforests of the northern coast meet the ocean. Usually rated as the third or fourth most venomous snake on earth, this species will rarely attack humans unless cornered or provoked, but then may strike repeatedly. Coastal taipans are noted as having the longest fangs of any Australian snake, and are recognizable by a distinct pale head and long, dark grey or brown body. Human deaths have occurred from bites, though very few since the creation of an anti-venom in 1955.

The central ranges taipan was only scientifically described in 2007, quite surprising considering that the adult snake may reach over four ft (1.3 m) in length. This snake is thought to be extremely rare, as only a few specimens have been sighted or caught since 2007. Some scientific experts believe that the central ranges species may be even more venomous than its inland cousin, but enough data has yet to be compiled to confirm this. The species is sometimes called the western desert taipan, since most sightings have occurred in the vast deserts of Western Australia.

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