Australia has more than its fair share of reptiles. There are two species of crocodiles in Australia, the saltwater and the freshwater. There are also 170 species of snakes and over 520 species of lizards.
Crocodiles are the closest living relatives of dinosaurs. They are very dangerous and can out run man on land. People have been known to be taken by crocodiles in northern Australia occasionally.
Freshwater Crocodile ***
This species is usually olive brown to grey in colour with a white belly, and it can have dark coloured bands across its body and tail. Males of this species grow up to 3m in length. It is found in freshwater rivers, streams, lakes, and swamps of northern Australia. It can often be seen basking in the sun on banks around their waterholes. These crocodiles are slender and capable of being extremely fast on land. Its snout is different to other species because it is long and narrow, which makes it difficult to hold large prey, therefore, feeding on fish, lizards, snakes, birds, frogs, and small mammals.
Generally grey, brown, or even almost black in colour with a white or cream underbelly, the snout of this crocodile is broader than that of the freshwater species, tapering at the end and covered with bony lumps. The scales of its back are like armour plating and these are actually pieces of bone beneath the skin. This is the largest species of crocodile in the world with males reaching a length of 5-7m. The males are very territorial and will defend their territory fiercly. Crocodiles usually hunt at night and they are very opportunistic feeders. They hunt using a silent underwater approach, then their head will appear within metres of its prey from where they lunge and pull the meal into the water.
170 snakes are found in Australia and its waters. These are divided into five groups - blind or worm snakes, file snakes, pythons and boas, colubrid snakes, and elipids and sea snakes. There are about 3000 snake bites a year in Australia, with some proving fatal. Antivenom is given in about 200 to 500 instances. About half of the snake bite cases and deaths are a result of bites from the brown snake and most of the other instances are the result of bites from taipans, death adders, or tiger snakes. Australia has the highest number of deadly snakes compared to any other country with seven of the world's 10 most deadly.
This snake is very distinctive with a generally black body and small yellow or cream coloured spots on individual scales. Sometimes these spots occur in a cluster where they will give the appearance of a diamond-like pattern. The underbelly of this snake is cream or white and spotted with darker scales. The diamond python will grow to an average size of about two metres with some individuals reaching four metres. It is found in a number of habitats along the east coast. The habitats range from rainforests and heavily timbered forest areas to rocky outcrops. They travel during the day and hunt at night, catching small mammals, birds, and small reptiles. Adult diamond pythons are ambush feeders where they will coil up and wait for prey to pass by, relying on a good sense of smell. These snakes are non-venomous and kill prey by constriction.
Up until 1955, the Australian taipan had a 100% mortality rate with human victims. They are large, very fast, a multiple striker, a nervous nature, very long fangs, and they have one of the world's most potent venoms capable of injecting a dose lethat enough to kill hundreds of adult humans. There are two species - the Australian taipan is found in northern and northeast Australian coastal areas while the small scaled snake is found in the arid regions of southwest Queensland, northwest New South Wales, and southeast South Australia. Common Taipans like sugarcan environments where there is an abundance of rats to eat. These snakes feed on mammals which they catch by using a rapid multiple bite technique called the 'snap and release technique'. Taipans have one of the world's most deadly toxins and are capable of injecting very large doses with their long fangs that measure up to 1.6cm.
The small scaled snake is also known as the 'fierce snake', inland taipan or western taipan. It was virtually unknown until 1974. It lives in the driest and most inhospitable habitat which is the eastern edge of the Simpson Desert. It shares many of the characteristics of the other species. It is considered to be even more deadly than its close relative with its venom being 50 times more potent than the Indian Cobra while the venom of the common taipan is only seven times more deadly than the Indian Cobra. However, bites from the fierce snake are rare probably because of its location.
(Eastern) Brown Snake ***
This snake is responsible for at least half of all snake bite cases in Australia, also causing the most deaths. The brown snake is extremely fast, highly venomous, very excitable, and is known to have a ferocious temper and aggressive behaviour. Many Australian reptile collectors will refuse to keep these snakes in their collection. This species is found right across the eastern states and it is not uncommon to find one of these in a suburban home of Sydney, Brisbane, or Melbourne. It seems to thrive in any environment such as farmland, rubbish dumps, suburbia, forests, timber yards, etc. Its diet depends on the opportunity but its natural diet would include skinks and mice. Its size seems to depend on its environment with the smallest maximum length coming from the southern states (around 1.2m) and the largest maximum lengths coming from the northern states such as Queensland (2.1-2.4m). This snake is the second most venomous snake in the world with victims collapsing in as little as 15minutes with death following soon after.
King Brown Snake ***
This snake is another very dangerous species that measures about 2m in length. It is often confused with the common brown snake but they are actually black snakes and not brown snakes. It is usually copper in colour or reddish or olive brown with a larger head than the common brown. Its underbelly is creamy yellow. It is nocturnal in the northern states but in the colder southern states it is likely to be seen during the day. This snake is highly venomous but it is rare for it to cause human death but there are only two snakes in the world that have provided more venom in a lab environment than the king brown and these are the king cobra and the gaboon viper.
Death Adders ***
These snakes are small (up to 1.2m) and found throughout Australia, New Guinea, Irian Jaya, and Indonesia. These nocturnal snakes are found in undisturbed areas, often suffering considerably from habitat destruction. They live in ground debris such as leaf litter, loose sand, spinifex, etc, and they become very vulnerable if this environment is disturbed. These snakes have a very fast strike and have been known to cause death but antivenoms can quickly reverse the paralysis effects.
Red Belly Black ***
As the name suggests, these are a black snake with a red underbelly. They were thought to be prevalent down the east coast of Australia to South Australia until the introduction of the cane toad reduced their numbers. This snake prefers wetlands and it is common to see them around creeks, swamps, marshes, and ponds. This is a venomous snake but it is not likely to be fatal with bites causing local tissue destruction.
Rough Scaled Snakes ***
A small snake closely related to the Tiger snake, it has a very bad temper and highly potent venom which can cause sudden collapse and unconsciousness. They are found in different wet habitats from North Queensland down to the Barrington Tops mountain range of New South Wales. They are nocturnal, searching for food such as frogs, mammals, and other reptiles, in the early evening.
Tiger Snakes ***
There are five subspecies of tiger snakes - Noctechis a. ater (found in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia), Notechis a. humphreys (found on Tasmania and King Island), Noctechis a. serventyi (found on Chappell Island), Notechis a. occidentalis (found in the south west corner of Western Australia), and Notechis a. niger (found on Kangaroo Island and other islands off the coast of South Australia). There is considerable variations between the subspecies and even within each subspecies. Tiger snakes are highly venomous and inject a large amount of venom. All tiger snakes are opportunistic when it comes to feeding, eating just about any animal they are capable of swallowing. The species found on Chappel Island, however, have developed quite a taste for mutton birds.
Limited to the southern states of Tasmania, Victoria, parts of New South Wales, and nearby islands, it is the only venomous snake to live above the snow line. Copperheads like wet environments such as rivers, creeks, and swamps, where it hunts frogs, small mammals, and other reptiles. Its colour ranges from light copper to dark brown with a light abdomen and a small head. Attacks on humans are rare as they are slow strikers and tend to also be inaccurate. However, these snakes are venomous and should be treated as such if bitten. This snake is not related to the American copperheads.
Australia has more than 520 lizard species, one of which has evolved completely in Australia. The five main families present are geckos, monitors or goannas, skinks, dragon lizards, and legless or snake lizards.
Goanna's are monitor lizards and there are 20 of the 30 monitor species in Australia. The most common Australian goanna is the sand monitor of northern Australia which measures 1.6m. Goannas are very good tree climbers and swimmers. They are territorial and feed on lizards, eggs, insects, small mammals, scorpions, spiders, carrion, and centipedes. They appear to be slow moving animals but can run quickly on just their back legs. It has a flat body, long neck, and a snake like tongue.
This is a slow, non-aggressive, and harmless reptile. It is easily identified by its soft spines, and camouflage colours which range from yellow to reddish brown or even black. These colours change depending on the colour of the surface it is sitting on. They are found throughout the interior of Australia, particularly on sandy soils, and grow to about 20cm. The thorny devil feeds only on ants, eating up to 45 a minute. When water or condensation lands on its back, it runs along grooves, with the aid of a capillary action, to the corner of its mouth.
This lizard has been becoming rare in recent years. They were once a common sight in many areas throughout Australia but now are hardly seen. They are thought of fondly and protected by most who come across these harmless animals basking in their garden. Bearded dragons eat insects such as crickets, mealworms, grasshoppers, cockroaches, beetles, moths, flies, butterflies, etc.
Or it is also known as frilled lizard or frilled neck lizard. This is the reptile emblem of Australia and also featured on the 2cent coin when the coins were still being used. Their colour matches the land on which they are living but the males are more colourful than the females. This lizard is harmless and feeds on insects such as cicadas, ants, spiders, and can also eat small lizards. The frilled lizard is found in tropical to warm temperate dry forests and woodlands, particularly around northern Queensland and the Northern Territory. The frill which gives it its name is usually folded in around the neck and shoulders but is spread out when the animal becomes frightened. It is also believed to regulate the body temperature.
Blue Tongued Lizard
There are six species of blue-tongued lizards in Australia which are members of the Skink family. The blue-tongue ranges in colour from grey or silver to brown and black, with dark strips from the eye to the ear and across the body. Their underbelly is yellow or light cream and grow to approximately 50cm. It is found in nearly all habitats along the east coast and appears to be able to cope with urban development. This skink is active during the day and at night it shelters under fallen timber, leaves, and rocks. If they are threatened they have the ability to break off their own tail. The blue-tongue lizard feeds on soft plant matter such as flowers, fruit, leaves, or fungi, but it will also feed on insects and snails.