Southern/Common Death Adder
The Common or Southern Death Adder is a very stout snake, for its length it is the heaviest of all Australian snakes. Death Adders are unmistakable among Australian snakes, they are quite unlike anything else on the continent and superficially resemble vipers more than elapids.
The similarities between Death Adders and vipers extends beyond appearance; they are slow moving, have large (by elapid standards) flexible fangs, specialised tail function and other evolutionary convergences with vipers. There is a definite appeal to these unique Australian snakes.
Typically, Common Death Adders grow to around 50-60cm, although rarely they may slightly exceed one metre. Typically they have weakly keeled scales in 21 rows around mid body.
Although highly variable in colour, Common Adders come in two basic forms: red and grey. Grey animals range from dull to light grey or brown, occasionally with reddish tones, which red animals range from reddish brown through to bright, vivid oranges, reds and sometimes yellow.
Red red/grey condition is determined by a single gene, with red being said to be dominant over grey. All animals have two different band colours, which may be almost identical or highly contrasting.
These bands are usually edged in black, particularly between the posterior edges of the light bands and the anterior edges of the darker bands.
Common Death Adders inhabit a range of habitats, including rainforest, scrubland, semi arid zones and rocky outcrops. Typically during the day they remain mostly buried beneath sand, soil or debris, with just the tail and top of the head exposed. One of the most interesting aspects of these snakes is their method of obtaining food. Death Adders do not actively hunt their prey, they are cryptic snakes which sit motionlessly, sometimes for months on end, constantly watching for any animal which unwittingly comes within striking distance.
Death Adders attract prey to themselves by using their specialised tail as a lure. The tail is wriggled, writhed and waved, imitating a small insect or worm, which attracts small animals such as lizards and birds which try to eat the tail tip, but instead are seized by the snake.
Death Adders have amazingly fast reflexes and strike speeds, and extremely potent, powerful venom based on neurotoxins. The modification of the tail tip is quite spectacular, it is coloured differently from the body (black, white, yellow or orange, with or without pattern), flattened out, and ends in a soft, harmless spine which many people wrongly believe to be a venomous sting.
Common Death Adders are late breeders, giving birth to live young between late summer and early winter. Litters are usually of around 12-15 adderlings, but rarely have as many as 30 or more.
Common Death Adders are extremely venomous and capable of delivering bites among the deadliest in the world. Despite this, they are highly popular with reptile keepers, are easy to maintain and make very rewarding captive specimens.