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Central Ranges taipan facts for kids

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Central Ranges taipan
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Genus:
Oxyuranus
Species:
temporalis

The Central Ranges taipan, or Western Desert taipan (Oxyuranus temporalis), is a species of taipan that was described in 2007 by Australian researchers Paul Doughty, Brad Maryan, Stephen Donnellan and Mark Hutchinson. Taipans are large, fast, extremely venomous Australasian snakes. The Central Ranges taipan was named one of the top five new species of 2007 by the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University.

Discovery

See also: Snakes of Australia

Dr. Mark Hutchinson, reptile and amphibian curator at the South Australian Museum, caught the immature female taipan while it was crossing a dirt track on a sunny afternoon. The reptile was about one metre (about 40 inches) in total length (body + tail), but because taipan species are among the most venomous snakes in the world, Hutchinson did not inspect the creature on site. He bagged the snake and sent it, along with others captured from the trip, to the Western Australian Museum in Perth for closer inspection.

It was not until two weeks later that the new species was studied. At first, it was tentatively identified as a western brown snake because of the similar size and colouring. However, several weeks later, Western Australia Museum reptile collection manager Brad Maryan noticed the now preserved snake had a large, pale head similar to the coastal taipan.

The holotype, nicknamed "Scully" after the X-Files TV character, is an immature snake about a metre long, which means that scientists do not know the true adult size of the species, though some taipans can reach a total length of about three meters (about 10 feet).

This is the first new taipan species to be discovered in 125 years.

New species

Oxyuranus temporalis differs from its two congeneric species Oxyuranus scutellatus and Oxyuranus microlepidotus in lacking a temporolabial scale and having six rather than seven infralabial scales. Phylogenetic analysis of mtDNA sequences showed it to be the sister species of the two previously known taipans.

Venom

The two other described species of Oxyuranus are among the most venomous land snakes in the world - Oxyuranus microlepidotus ranked the most venomous land snake and Oxyuranus scutellatus the third most venomous after Pseudonaja textilis. The new species, O. temporalis, has a LD50 measured on mice to be 0.075 mg/Kg, making it likely to be extremely dangerous to a human if bitten, albeit less toxic than the inland taipan, which was found by the same study to have a LD50 of 0.0225 mg/Kg.

2010 Rediscovery

In May 2010, a second specimen of Oxyuranus temporalis was found in the Great Victoria Desert of Western Australia. The adult female taipan measuring 1.3 metres (4.3 ft) in total length was captured by the Spinifex people from the Tjuntjuntjara Aboriginal community during a biological study at Ilkurlka, 165 kilometres west of the South Australian border, 425 kilometres south of the location of the initial discovery.

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