Red Bellied Black Snake Red Belly Black SnakeThe Red Bellied Black Snake is a medium-sized poisonous, but inoffensive, snake found in the eastern parts of Australia. It gets its name from the fact that it has a black upper body with distinctive bright red or crimson sides which fade into a duller shades of the same colours on its belly (underside of its body).
Scientific name: dacelo novaeguineae
The correct non-scientific name for this snake is Red Bellied Black Snake. It is often also called the Red Belly Black Snake or Common Black Snake.
The Red Bellied Black Snake's head is barely distinguishable from its body. That is to say, there isn't a clearly visible constricted neck area. Its snout is usually a pale brown colour. The scales on its body are smooth and glossy. It has medium sized, very dark eyes with round pupils, that sit below a noticeable brow-ridge.
The average adult is about 1.5 - 2m long, with males growing slightly larger than females. Some have been known to grow up to 2.5 metres in length, making it one of the largest venomous snakes in Australia.
The Red Bellied Black Snake belongs to the Elapid family of snakes which means it has fangs located in the front of its mouth. The fangs on this snake are relatively small.
Like most snakes it is deaf, has a forked tongue, and no eyelids. It is a very shy creature, that prefers to avoid humans.
Geographic Distribution of the Red Bellied Black Snake
Red Bellied Black Snakes can be found in small areas of north-eastern Queensland and then from south-eastern Queensland through eastern New South Wales and Victoria. They can also be found in in parts of the Mount Lofty Ranges of South Australia. (See map).
Red Bellied Back Snake Range
The Red Bellied Black Snakes live in moist habitats within forests, woodlands and grasslands close to bodies of water such as rivers, streams, swamps and wetlands. They have also adapted to the modern rural environments and can be found close to irrigation canals and dams. The snakes shelter under large rocks, in logs, in animal burrows and in clumps of grass. They seem to be territorial and have a number of preferred shelters within their domain. They are active during the day and night.
Red Bellied Black Snakes primarily eat of frogs, they also eat lizards, fish, eggs, small mammals and other snakes, including member of their own species. The snake is known to forage in water where it may completely submerge itself in search of prey. Captured prey may be brought to the surface or swallowed while still under water. These snakes have been observed intentionally stirring up underwater sediment to flush out hidden prey.
Red Bellied black snakes are ovoviviparous. That is, they do not lay eggs like most other snakes. Instead they give birth to between 8 to 40 live young each in their own individual membranous sac. The young break through this membranous sac soon after birth. They are about 122mm at birth. The babies are born with well-developed venom glands. Their bite is just as toxic as that of their parents. The female gives birth about four to five months after mating. Most young do not survive to adulthood. They fall prey to birds such has the kookaburra, other snakes and frogs, etc.
Red Bellied Black Snakes reach sexual maturity in 2-3 years. During the spring breeding season (October to November) males travel widely in search of females. They will fight other males they may encounter to gain access to a female. Jousting involves the two rivals spreading their necks and rearing up their fore-bodies and twisting their necks around each other and getting entwined during the struggle. The snakes may also hiss loudly and bite each other (they are immune to their own species' toxin).
This jostling usually lasts for less than half an hour with one of the contenders conceding defeat by leaving the area.
The Red Bellied Black Snake is a very shy creature. It will evade humans rather than attack them.
When threatened it will try to bluff its way out of the situation by flattening its body, lift its body up in a striking stance and hiss loudly. If provoked further it will attack in self-defence delivering a quick bite. In some circumstances it is known the cling to its victims and chew savagely.
Dying from a Snake Bite
You are more likely to die from falling off a horse than from a snake bite.
Symptoms of a Red Belly Black Snake bite include bleeding and swelling at the site of the bite, nausea, vomiting and headache, diarrhoea, muscle pain and general weakness. The victim may also pass red-brown urine as a result of muscle damage caused by the cytotoxin in the snake's venom.
There is no record of any human dying from a Red Bellied Black Snake bite.
The Red Bellied Black snake is not a threatened species. There are many of these snakes in the wild. They are, however, susceptible to the following threats.
Cane Toad Poisoning
There was some initial concern about the rapid decline in population of the Red Bellied Black Snake after the introduction of the Cane Toad in the 1935. The snake was eating the highly toxic toad and dying. It appears now that the snake and cane toad seem to be co-existing in the wild.
There are two theories put forward. The first is that the snake has learned to avoid eating the toad. The second is that natural selection is at play as it appears that the snakes have gradually got longer since the 1937. While a single cane toad could poison a smaller snake the large snake, due to its bigger body mass, could survive a single cane toad ingestion. So natural selection has favoured bigger snakes.
Given the human fear of any snake, many of these harmless animals are killed when humans encounter them.
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