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Stupefying Facts About the Desert Death Adder

Meghna Wani
The desert death adder is a species native to Australia. It is a highly venomous snake, and its numbers are fast dwindling. This and other interesting facts about the desert death adder, will be revealed in this story.

Irony of Life!

Death adders are one of the most poisonous snakes in the world, but unfortunately, they eat a small toad known as the cane toad, and die after unknowingly ingesting its poison.
The desert death adder (Acanthophis pyrrhus) is a form of elapid snake, and is a native of Australia, New Guinea, and the nearby islands. It is a member of the cobra family. One striking feature of this snake is its fangs, which are mobile.
The fangs are located on a bone that can rotate forward. This helps the snake to enter the fangs into its victim at right angles which provides better grip. Despite its name, the snake is not related to adders. It just resembles an adder, and experts attribute this to convergent evolution.
The population of the desert death adder is under threat due to habitat loss. Wildlife officials have appealed to the general public to mark the spot where they find a desert adder, and call professional snake catchers, rather than kill the snake.
This way, the species can be saved from becoming extinct. Let's take a look at some more interesting facts about the desert death adder.


Its habitat usually consists of arid and semi-arid areas. It can be found in remote areas of Central and Western Australia. Porcupine grass, stoned flats, sandy ridges, rocky outcrops, and coastal dunes are its abode. In Southwest Australia, it is generally spotted in the hummock grasses of mallee. In general, the desert death adder prefers spinifex habitats.


They have short, thick bodies with a long, tapering tail. The head is usually triangular, and they grow to an average length of 70 to 100 cm, and exhibit a flattened body. The color of the body is usually yellowish to orange, to brown to brick red, with distinct yellow to orange-colored stripes. This pattern helps these snakes to camouflage with their surroundings.


Desert death adders have an arcane attitude towards hunting. They are ambush predators. They remain hidden in the bushes or desert sand, with only their long tail visible. They move their tail constantly, to mimic a grub. The prey gets lured, thinking that it's a wriggling worm.
As soon as the prey comes within striking range, they pounce on it with extreme speed and release a venom, which acts as a neurotoxin and kills the prey. These snakes are terrific swimmers and can chase their prey, cutting through the waters with awesome speed. Desert death adders are known to become more active after dark.


Desert adders predominantly prey on desert lizards; however, they also prefer skinks and dragonflies. Sometimes, they also catch birds, frogs, rodents, and other small mammals. They are known to exhibit cannibalism, as they eat their young ones and other smaller snakes.


As opposed to other snakes, instead of laying eggs, desert death adders give birth to young ones. These snakes usually mate in late spring or early summer. The female desert death adder usually gives birth to baby snakes in late summer or early autumn. The female can give birth to a litter of 20 young snakes.
This number is known to vary, and in some cases, even 30 young snakes have been observed. It is seen that as soon as the baby snake is born, it is capable of taking care of itself, and the mother instantly leaves the place.


They are docile creatures and are reluctant to bite, unless threatened. Normally, they produce around 85 to 235 milligrams of venom. They also have longer fangs as compared to most other Australian venomous snakes. An average length of around 6.2 to 8.3 millimeter is recorded. The venom acts as a potent post-synaptic neurotoxin on the body of the prey. A bite of a desert death adder may cause drooping of eyelids, nausea, difficulties in speech, and eventually, lead to breathing problems and paralysis.
So, if you are in Australia and spot a desert death adder, it would be rightful to stay at a safe distance, because not only are they masters of camouflage but also one of the most deadliest snakes in the world.