Wednesday 28 August 2013

Death Adder

Image: teejaybee
Death Adder. Death. Adder. Now there's a name you can have confidence in!

Sure, it's not the kind of confidence you want to have in your babysitter or plant-waterer; it's more the kind you have when you're in a war and the other side wears a distinctive uniform. And what could be more distinctive than a uniform that's scaly and has no arms or legs?

Image: teejaybee
The Death Adder is aptly named, what with it being fast, venomous and often very difficult to see. It is, in other words, the perfect assassin. The perfect fat, lazy assassin.

The thing is, they don't actually hunt. If you wanted to get your neighbour killed for not watering your prize-winning chrysanthemums while you were on holiday, the Death Adder would be like "yeah, man. I'll just stay here and... *yawn* if he passes by I'll... *zzzzz*"

Image: teejaybee
Check out that tail!
Death Adders are ambush predators, not active hunters. There's some disagreement over how many species there actually are - anywhere between 4 and 15 - but most live in Australia, with a couple in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. You get the sense that they really just want to sit in the sun and drink a beer. But then they get hungry and simply must kill something. Humbug!

With their slovenly ways and disdain for hard work, Death Adders have had to find another way to catch food. They lie down, mostly buried in soil or leaf litter with just their head and tail exposed. They need their head because that's where all the murdering stuff is. And since Death Adders have no sleeves to hide their tricks, they put it on their tail instead.

Video: Jay Snakes

Death Adder tails are AMAZING! We all know about snake-eye mesmerism, but these guys have it on the other end, too. They wriggle their tail in a most hypnotic way... I could watch it for days! That isn't the point, though. Death Adders don't hypnotise stuff and eat them. Instead, it lures birds and lizards who hope to eat that lovely grub-caterpillar thing that's flaunting itself with its enticing dance.

And then the Death Adder strikes. Apparently they go from being poised and ready to attack, to biting and injecting venom, to being poised and ready to attack again, all in under 0.15 seconds! The blink of an eye is about twice that! That's why you have to keep them peeled.

Image: teejaybee
The Death Adder is one of the most toxic snakes in the world, with their venom causing paralysis which eventually results in complete respiration shutdown. In humans, there used to be a 50/50 chance that a victim would be dead in about 6 hours. These days there is effective antivenom to be had.

"Beware of fat assassins bearing syringes full of neurotoxin."
Never a truer word spoken.


TexWisGirl said...

they sure are beautiful! and obviously smart to just lie around and wait. :)

Joseph JG said...

Yes! They know what it's all about!