Venom Supplies PTY LTD

Death Adders

The common death adder Acanthophis antarcticus

 Death adders are the most distinguishable snakes in Australia. They have the habit of burying themselves in sand or leaf litter, with just their head and tail exposed whilst they lie in wait for potential prey. When a small bird, lizard or small mammal approaches, they twitch their tail rapidly like a grub to attract their prey. If the prey approaches close enough, the rapid strike rarely misses its mark.

Their habit of laying still, partially exposed, makes them difficult to see and more easily trodden on.

Death adders have suffered declines over much of their habitats due to land clearing and habitat degradation by domestic stock. Competition from introduced predators such as foxes and cats has also aided their decline.

Remaining habitats anywhere in South Australia are important for death adders and they should be conserved. In South Australia, they prefer mallee and coastal dune communities. Support by everyone is important, not only for death adders but many other native fauna types.

Any death adders venturing into domestic gardens, work sites and farms or in any undesirable locations would be valuable additions to our snake milking program and we would be grateful for any support from the local community. We do not urge anyone without snake handling experience, to try and catch these snakes. Just simply observe where they take refuge, mark they spot and call us using the contact details at the end.

The venom is used for antivenom production and medical research.

The main actions of venom
The venom of death adders is largely neurotoxic and predominantly postsynaptic in action and as such acts rapidly. Symptoms relate to neuromuscular failure. The first signs of envenomation are drooping eyelids, nausea and speech difficulties. As the problem progresses, breathing difficulties and paralysis will be experienced.

Prior to antivenom being available, death adders accounted for a 50% mortality rate in bite victims. Today, a death from death adder bit is rare. CSL Ltd death adder antivenom works extremely well and rapidly. Reversal of symptoms from death adder bites is far quicker than with other types of snakebite such as tiger snake, taipan and brown snakes because, by and large, only a single type of toxic affect occurs. With tiger snake and taipan bites, multi-toxin effects are experienced such as neurotoxic, haemotoxin and myotoxic effects. These affect breathing (as in death adder bites) blood clotting and muscle breakdown. Even the neurotoxic effects in brown, tiger snake and taipan bites are more complex with 2 types of neurotoxins.

Any bites or even suspected bites from death adders, and any snake for that matter, should be treated as an extreme emergency and pressure immobilisation first aid should be applied and medical help should be sought immediately.

Antivenom: CSL Ltd Death Adder Antivenom.
Use polyvalent antivenom in the absence of specific Death Adder antivenom

Desert Death Adder Acanthophis pyrrhus

Desert death adders are poorly represented in South Australia and are only known from a few Museum specimens collected by the famous Aboriginal worker Daisy Bates from a little place, now non-existent, called Oldea which was once a Fettlers community on the East-West railway line not far from Cook.

The only information about their habitat is assumed from Northern Territory specimens where they prefer Spinifex habitats.

Predominantly a lizard feeder.

Venom is thought to be generally similar to that of the other death adders and the limited study carried out so far shows little gross differences. The venom is predominantly postsynaptic neurotoxic activity and is neutralised by death adder antivenom. Like other death adder venoms, it also has weak anticoagulant activity which doesn’t seem to manifest itself in clinical cases.

Antivenom: CSL Ltd Death Adder Antivenom.
Use polyvalent antivenom in the absence of specific Death Adder antivenom