Common Death Adder - Acanthophis antarcticus Click to enlarge image
A Common Death Adder (Acanthophis antarcticus) in a curled up position. Image: Stephen Mahony
© Stephen Mahony

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    antarcticus
    Genus
    Acanthophis
    Family
    Elapidae
    Suborder
    Serpentes
    Order
    Squamata
    Subclass
    Lepidosauria
    Class
    Reptilia
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    40-100 cm

There are several species of death adders in Australia but the Common Death Adder is the only one found in the Sydney region.

Identification

The Common Death Adder is easily recognised by its triangular-shaped head, short stout body and thin tail.

Habitat

The Common Death Adder lives in forests and woodlands, grasslands and heath.

Distribution

Common Death Adders are found in Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.



Feeding and diet

The Common Death Adder feeds on frogs, lizards and birds and, unlike most Australian venomous snakes that actively search for prey, this snake sits in one place and waits for prey to come to it. Covering itself with leaves makes it inconspicuous and it lies coiled in ambush, twitching its yellowish grub-like tail close to its head as a lure. When an animal approaches to investigate the movement, the death adder quickly strikes, injecting its venom and then waiting for the victim to die before eating it.

Life history cycle

The Common Death Adder may give birth to up to 24 live young.

Danger to humans

Death adders have relatively large fangs and toxic venom and, before the introduction of antivenom, about 60% of bites to humans were fatal.