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An inland taipan, or Oxyuranus microlepidotus, is a member of the Elapidae family of snakes and is found only in Australia. Generally, the size of the inland taipan averages about 6 feet (1.8 m). Individual specimens have been found that are as long as 8.2 feet (about 2.5 m). Most often, the male is larger than the female.
This snake, also called the fierce snake, is widely thought to be the world's most poisonous land snake. Researchers estimate that the venom of the inland taipan is about 50 times more toxic than a cobra’s and approximately 200 to 400 times more poisonous than that of most rattlesnakes. The venom from one bite is potentially enough to kill more than 100 people or more than 250,000 mice. Regardless of how toxic the venom, the inland taipan accounts for few deaths because it is so reclusive and runs away from threats.
Geographically, the reach of the inland taipan is very restricted. Its distribution is limited to the continent of Australia. Within Australia, it can be found only in the extremely hot and dry climate of the Australian outback. In the wild, this rare species of snake inhabits only the area of Australia where the borders of the Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia come together.
The color of the inland taipan ranges from a reddish dark brown to dark tan and shades of olive-green and buff. Its color varies depending on the season, and it is darker in winter than in summer. Changing color helps it to adapt to the extreme climate of the Australian outback. When darker, it is able to absorb heat better in the winter, and it stays cooler when it is lighter in the summer. Its head will become a glossy dark black in the winter, which allows the inland taipan to heat itself more efficiently by exposing a smaller amount of its body at the entrance of its burrow.
Inland taipans like to live in abandoned rat burrows as well as in the deep crevices and cracks that form in the very dry soil of the Australian outback. This snake is a carnivore and feeds almost entirely on small mammals. Rats are a favorite prey, but it also eats lizards, birds and marsupials.
Not much is known about the behavior of inland taipans because they are both rare and reclusive. Their mating season runs from about July to December. The females lay 12-20 eggs that hatch after about two months.
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