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Old 03-13-2007, 01:09 AM   #1
Clay Davenport
New species of taipan found

AUSTRALIAN researchers have found a new species of taipan snake slithering in the outback.

Similar to the western brown snake, the still unnamed species was discovered during an expedition to a remote region about 200km northwest of Uluru in September last year.

Dr Mark Hutchinson, reptile and amphibian curator at the South Australian Museum, caught the immature female taipan while it was crossing a dirt track.

He said the reptile was about one metre long but, because it was one of the most venomous snakes in the world, he did not inspect the creature on site.

Dr Hutchinson was part of a research group from the South Australian and West Australian museums that was in isolated outback region to make the first scientific inventory of the area's animal and plant species.

Dr Hutchinson said 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.

"It was a bit of a surprise," Dr Hutchinson said.

"In fact I found it really hard to believe at first.

"This isn't the 19th century you usually don't find a new species that big out in the open, well not in Australia."

The two known species of taipan are not found in sandy desert habitats, with the closest family members to the new discovery recorded some 800km away.

The inland taipan was the last taipan reported in the region and that was seen more than 125 years ago.

Dr Hutchinson said the discovery demonstrated the incredible diversity of the Australian outback.

He said he expected other undiscovered species to be out there as well.

He said further tests were now underway and a paper would soon be published outlining the new discovery.
WA Museum herpetologist Paul Doughty said the reptile was named the Central Ranges Taipan, or Oxyuranus temporalis, and was likely to be extremely venomous. "But we won't know just how venomous until more of them are caught and the venom tested," Dr Doughty said.

"Australia has the world's most deadly snakes, of which the taipans are the most charismatic and notorious.''

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