Inland Taipan

Oxyuranus microlepidotus

Last updated: May 5, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit reptiles4all/Shutterstock.com

A single inland taipan bite has enough venom to kill a hundred men.

Inland Taipan Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Reptilia
Order
Squamata
Family
Elapidae
Genus
Oxyuranus
Scientific Name
Oxyuranus microlepidotus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Inland Taipan Conservation Status

Inland Taipan Locations

Inland Taipan Locations

Inland Taipan Facts

Prey
Rodents
Name Of Young
Snakelets or hatchlings
Fun Fact
A single inland taipan bite has enough venom to kill a hundred men.
Biggest Threat
None
Most Distinctive Feature
Their scales create a herringbone (zigzag) pattern along the length of the body
Distinctive Feature
Rectangular-shaped head and large, round, dark eyes
Other Name(s)
Fierce snake, small-scaled snake, or western taipan
Habitat
Semi-arid black soil plains
Predators
The king brown snake and the perentie monitor lizard
Diet
Omnivore
Common Name
Inland Taipan

Inland Taipan Physical Characteristics

Venomous
Yes
Aggression
Medium

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The inland taipan is thought to produce one of the deadliest venoms in the world.

The inland taipan, also known as the fierce snake, small-scaled snake, or western taipan, can easily kill a person with a single bite, but surprisingly very few deaths have ever been recorded. They will only strike if they feel directly threatened. Nevertheless, this species should be avoided at all costs.

3 Inland Taipan Amazing Facts

  • One of the most interesting facts is that the inland taipan males are thought to engage in combat with each other to compete for mates. During this time, their bodies intertwine, and they lash out at each other with their closed mouths. These snakes are thought to mate in the late winter. Females will lay a clutch of 11 to 20 eggs at a time. In captivity, they can produce two clutches per season. The baby taipans measure about 18 inches long after emerging from the egg.
  • The inland taipan has very few predators in the wild. However, the king brown snake and the perentie monitor lizard are both known to feed on baby taipans and juveniles.
  • The inland taipan normally lives between 10 and 15 years, but one specimen at the Australia Zoo lived to be more than 20 years old.

Where to Find Inland Taipans

The inland or western taipan is a native of Australia. It can be found in the semi-arid black soil plains habitat of southwestern Queensland and northeastern South Australia in the interior central part of the country. It is presumed to be extinct in Victoria and New South Wales. This snake spends a lot of the hot day hiding in clay cracks or crevasses, so it’s rarely encountered by people.

Scientific Name

The scientific name of the inland or western taipan is Oxyuranus microlepidotus. Oxyuranus essentially translates from Greek to mean sharp or needle-like arch. This refers to the arch-like shape of the snake’s palate in the roof of the mouth. Microlepidotus likewise means small scale in Greek. This species is closely related to the coastal taipan and central ranges taipan, both of which are also native to Australia and New Guinea.

Inland Taipan vs. Black Mamba

The black mamba and inland taipan are both extremely deadly snakes and belong to the same family of Elapidae, but they’re somewhat distantly related to each other. The black mamba is only found in sub-Saharan Africa, not Australia.

Population & Conservation Status

According to the IUCN Red List, the inland taipan is a species of least concern. Although its range is fairly small and constricted in central Australia, it doesn’t appear to face any significant threats in the wild. Population numbers have never been estimated with any real accuracy.



Appearance & Description

The western taipan is a fairly large snake, measuring up to 8 feet long and averaging about 6 feet. It has a rectangular-shaped head and large, round, dark eyes. Males and females are difficult to reliably distinguish from each other. The back can vary anywhere between dalenrk brown and yellowish brown, sometimes with an inky black blue head, whereas the underside has yellow scales and orange blotches. The scales are colored in such a way as to create a zigzag pattern along the length of the body. These colors will change with the seasons; they become darker in the winter to retain warmth and lighter in the summer to prevent overheating.

Here is how to identify the inland taipan:

  • Long, robust body measuring up to 8 feet in size
  • Rectangular-shaped head
  • Brown or olive-colored back with a kind of herringbone zigzag pattern
  • Yellow underside with orange blotches
An inland taipan in a threatening pose
The scales of the inland taipan make a herringbone pattern.

Ken Griffiths/Shutterstock.com

Inland Taipan: How Dangerous Are They?

The inland western taipan is sometimes cited as the most venomous snake in the world. They’re even more venomous than the blue krait and the king cobra. An untreated bite, which may cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and paralysis, has a very high fatality rate of more than 80 percent. Death usually occurs from respiratory failure and suffocation. According to the Australian Zoo, this snake is often said to have enough venom to kill a hundred adult men in a single bite. This is due to its lethal toxicity, the large fangs, and the venom’s fast-spreading action. The inland taipan was found to have the most toxic venom of all snakes in a test on mice.

However, in reality, very few people have ever actually died from this snake, because they’re fairly timid and live in remote locations far from people. Bites almost always occur in a controlled environment where the person already knew they would be handling the snake. Herpetologists, wildlife keepers, and scientists are the most common victims. Despite the very high fatality rate from its bite, the anti-venom usually provides a successful treatment to prevent death, assuming it can be delivered in enough time. Depending on how much of the venom has spread throughout the body, however, recovery can take weeks.

Inland Taipan Behavior and Humans

Given its deadly nature, the inland taipan is surprisingly mellow and shy around people. Experts have learned how to handle them without being regularly bitten. In the wild, this snake will only attack people if provoked, cornered, or mishandled in some way. It will make a threat display by raising its upper body into a curve and then giving a warning sign. For obvious reasons, anyone who isn’t already working with this snake should avoid it at all costs to prevent an attack.

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Inland Taipan FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are inland taipans venomous?

Yes, the inland taipan is one of the most venomous snakes in the world. It is also one of the deadliest animals in all of Australia, along with the blue ringed octopus and the sea snake. Baby taipans can start to produce venom shortly after birth.

How do inland taipans hunt?

The inland taipan is an extraordinarily effective hunter. After locating prey through its sense of smell, this snake will attempt to corner the animal in a burrow or crack and then bite them several times in quick succession. The inland taipan strikes with incredible skill and accuracy. It almost never misses. The venom will begin to act within moments so the snake can swallow its prey almost immediately.

Are inland taipans aggressive?

The inland taipan is described as surprisingly tame and mellow in a captive setting, but they will attack and bite if they feel cornered or threatened.

Where do inland taipans live?

This species lives in the hot, semi-arid interior black plains habitats of Australia.

What do inland taipans eat?

The inland taipan primarily consumes rodents. Its entire lifestyle is oriented around the annual boom and bust cycle of the plains rats and house mice in its native habitat.

Can you survive a bite from an inland taipan?

The fatality rate of an untreated bite is extremely high, perhaps more than 80 percent. With proper medical care, however, the prognosis is generally quite good.

Is the inland taipan the most venomous snake in the world?

Studies on rodents have shown that, drop for drop, the inland taipan appears to be the most venomous snake.

How poisonous is an inland taipan?

One of the most interesting facts is that the snake’s bite supposedly has enough venom to kill a hundred people.

How fast can an inland taipan kill you?

Depending on how much venom is injected and the location of the bite, the inland taipan can supposedly kill a person within an hour.

Sources
  1. Austrailian Museum, Available here: https://australian.museum/learn/animals/reptiles/inland-taipan/
  2. Australia Zoo, Available here: https://www.australiazoo.com.au/wildlife/our-animals/fierce-snake/

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