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What is a King Brown?

By Bethney Foster
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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King brown is one of the longest venomous snakes in the world and is considered to be among the top five most venomous snakes in the world. Native to most of Australia, this snake is also known commonly as a mulga snake and is scientifically named Pseudechis australis. A member of the black snake family, colors of the snake range from brown to copper to nearly black. The snake is lighter in color on its underside, with darker crosshatch patterns marking its scales.

Growing to more than 8 feet (2.5 meters) in length and having a broad head, the king brown is found in the grasslands, deserts, and woodlands of its native continent. It often encounters humans when hiding under garbage piles or in other debris. It is not found in the rainforests of Australian, preferring a more arid habitat.

Venom from the snake is considered to be highly dangerous. While the actual venom may not be as potent as with some other types of poisonous snakes, this snake is known for injecting its victims with large amounts of venom, more than 150 mg in a single bite. If threatened, the king brown snake will often strike repeatedly.

Mainly active at night, especially during hot weather, the king brown is a member of the Elapidaw family. A predator, the snake feeds mainly on lizards and other snakes, but will also eat birds and rodents. It also feeds on other venomous snakes, but the venom of its prey seems to cause the king brown no harm. The snake kills its prey by a chewing action that pumps venom into the body, slowing down the animal’s ability to react and escape.

The venom of the king brown contains motoxins that cause damage to the muscles, while postsynaptic neurotoxins cause muscle paralysis. Also present in the venom are anticoagulants that stop blood from clotting. The venom has also been found to cause renal damage in human victims of the king brown’s bite.

The female snake lays 8 to 20 eggs in a clutch. She most often incubates her eggs beneath debris piles or a fallen tree or rock. After two to three months, the eggs hatch. The parent snakes provide no care for their young, and the mother snake leaves the nesting area shortly before or after the eggs hatch. Upon hatching, the young snakes go in search of prey for their first meal.

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