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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 6


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Having paid much attention to the reptiles found near this city, I am now able to give an account of the snakes to be met with in the vicinity, and to point Out which of them may be considered dangerous to man or larger animals.

There are four highly venomous snakes observed to inhabit nearly every part of Australia, while a fifth large venomous species exists besides these on the North-west coast; and these are the only dangerous ones known to us as yet.

All the remaining species, as far as my knowledge goes, are too small to inflict a dangerous wound.

In the beginning of spring, when reptiles re-appear, there is generally a great supply of snake stories brought before the public by the daily press, but it is of very rare occurrence that we hear of death being caused by the bite of any of these animals.

If we compare our reptile-fauna with other countries under the same latitude, I think that we have sufficient reason to be thankful for the absence of the deadly Vipers, the Rattlesnakes and Puff-adders of India, America, and Africa—all of which have fangs an inch or more in length; we actually have not yet discovered a single species in which the teeth exceed one-fourth of an inch, and I doubt whether any of our snakes can inflict a wound through ordinary cloth or a common leather boot.

All our venomous snakes belong to the second sub-order of the class Ophidia, viz:—to the Colubrine snakes with permanently erect immoveable fangs in front. Of innocuous, or not venomous Colubrine snakes, we have three species near Sydney, all of which are Tree-snakes. If we except the Diamond snake, which belongs to the Boa family, we find that all not venomous page 35 Colubrine snakes may be easily distinguished from the venomous species by the deep curve which the gape of the mouth forms; whilst, in the venomous snakes, the gape is always a more or less straight line. In the members of the Boa family the line is straight, as in venomous snakes, but these are easily distinguished by the rudimentary limbs, in shape like a small spur situated near the anus.

I have added Dr. Günther's description of the two species of Sea-Snakes which occur on our coast; both of which may be considered harmless, having only very small fangs—and I take this opportunity to thank that eminent naturalist for the kind assistance he has so frequently rendered me. I also beg to assure those contributors to the Museum who have furnished me with the means of adding to the knowledge of our Reptiles, that I shall always consider myself under deep obligations to every one of them.