Inland Taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Genus: Oxyuranus

O. scutellatus
O. s. scutellatus (Coastal Taipan)
O. s. canni (Papuan Taipan)
O. microlepidotus (Inland Taipan)
O. temporalis (Central Ranges Taipan)

The taipans are a genus of large, fast, highly venomous Australasian snakes of the elapid family.



A coastal taipan.

The taipan was named by Donald Thomson after the word used by the Wik-Mungkan Aboriginal people of central Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, Australia.[1]

There are three known species: the coastal taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus), the inland taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus) and a recently discovered third species, the Central Ranges taipan (Oxyuranus temporalis).[2] The coastal taipan has two subspecies: the coastal taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus scutellatus), found along the north-eastern coast of Queensland and the Papuan taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus canni), found on the southern coast of Papua New Guinea. Their diet consists primarily of small mammals, especially rats and bandicoots.

One species, the inland taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus), which is endemic to Australia, has the most toxic venom of any terrestrial snake species worldwide. Pseudonaja textilis intervenes between the inland and coastal taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus) which has the third most toxic venom of any land snake. O. temporalis may be even more lethal, but has been less researched than other species of this genus.[3] Toxicity is measured as LD50 in mg/kg for mice. Venom yield also must be taken into account. The venom clots the victim's blood, blocking blood vessels and using up clotting factors. It is also highly neurotoxic. There were no known survivors of a Taipan bite before an antivenene was developed and, even then, victims often require extended periods of intensive care.

The coastal taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus) is among the third most venomous land snake in the world based on LD50, and arguably the largest venomous snake in Australia. Its venom contains primarily taicatoxin, a highly potent neurotoxin and are known to cause hemolytic and coagulopathic reactions.[4] Death can occur as early as 30 minutes after being bitten by it.[4] The untreated envenomation mortality rate from this species can near 100%.[4]. The danger posed by the coastal taipan was brought to Australian public awareness in 1950, when young herpetologist Kevin Budden was fatally bitten in capturing the first specimen available for antivenom research. The coastal taipan is often considered to be one of the deadliest species in the world.[5]


Taipans can grow to 3 meters long.[6] The coastal taipan is usually pale to dark brown in color, fading to a lateral cream, although juveniles are lighter in color. The Papuan taipan is black or purplish-gray, with a copper-colored stripe on its back. They are often found in sugar fields due to an abundance of rats, their main food source. They feed on these two or three times a week.

In several aspects of morphology, ecology and behavior, the coastal taipan is strongly convergent with an African elapid, Dendroaspis polylepis (the black mamba).[7]


  1. ^ Sutton, Peter. Wik Ngathan Dictionary, 1995.
  2. ^ Doughty, Paul et al. "A New Species of Taipan (Elapidae: Oxyuranus) from Central Australia." Zootaxa 1422, 2007 (pages 45–58).
  3. ^ "One of the Most Venomous Snakes in the World - Oxyuranus temporalis." International Institute for Species Exploration, 2008.
  4. ^ a b c [http://drdavidson.ucsd.edu/Portals/0/snake/Oxyura~2.htm "IMMEDIATE FIRST AID for bites by Australian Taipan or Common Taipan"]. http://drdavidson.ucsd.edu/Portals/0/snake/Oxyura~2.htm. 
  5. ^ [http://www.seanthomas.net/oldsite/danger.html Dangerous Critters
  6. ^ Australian Zoo article on taipan
  7. ^ Shine, Richard; Covacevich, Jeanette. "Ecology of Highly Venomous Snakes: the Australian Genus Oxyuranus (Elapidae)." Journal of Herpetology, Volume 17, Number 1, March 1983 (pages 60-69).

External links

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