Dangerous Creatures exhibit welcomes two death adders

  • 03 July 2017 | Ann Kunz | Category: Species

When uShaka Sea World herpetologist Carl Schloms heard that a local breeder had a pair of death adders looking for a new home, he wasted no time in making the necessary arrangements for them to be relocated to our Dangerous Creatures exhibit.

uShaka Sea World's Dangerous Creatures now houses two exotic death adders (Acanthophis rugosus). (Image: uShaka Sea World)

The rough-scaled death adder (Acanthophis rugosus) is not a true adder but is an elapid snake related to cobras, mambas and coral snakes. The two new arrivals are both a year old and measure roughly 70cm in length, which is quite small compared to an average true adders of this age. However, with a little ingenuity, being genetically smaller than most true adders does not necessarily mean that they are disadvantaged in in the game of survival.

Since Carl had not had any previous experience housing this species, he spent time researching their natural behaviour to ensure that the exhibit would meet their needs. Visitors to the exhibit are likely see this beautiful pair buried under the sand with just their heads and tail tips protruding from the substrate.

Being ambush predators means the snakes don’t have to be the biggest or fastest – just the shrewdest. Death adders are stealth ambush predators that attract their prey through caudal (tail tip) luring, then – unlike most true adders – inject a fast-acting neurotoxin into their hapless prey. Most true adder species inject a slower-acting cytotoxic venom.

The scale patterns typical of death adders provide them with ideal camouflage in their natural home in the grasslands of northern Australia, where they are classified as common and having no major threats. 

These adders prey primarily on small rodents, geckos and lizards, and thrive on only one or two meals every 10 days.

Our herpetologists at Dangerous Creatures delight in sharing information and their passion for these often-maligned reptiles, which form a vital part of the intricate web of life. Next time you pay uShaka Sea World a visit, be sure to look out for the death adder exhibit and spend some time observing these fascinating exotic snakes. 

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