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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 6

Pseudechis. Wagl. — Pseudechis porphyriacus. Shaw. — The Black Snake

Pseudechis. Wagl.

Pseudechis porphyriacus. Shaw.

The Black Snake.

This snake is so well known that but a short description of it will be necessary. Body elongate and rounded; tail moderate, not distinct from trunk: head rather small, quadrangular with rounded muzzle; shields of crown regular; 2 nasals, no loreal; one anterior and 2 posterior oculars; scales smooth, imbricate, in 17 rows; anal bifid; first subcaudals entire, hinder ones two-rowed; in some individuals all the subcaudals are entire. Black above, each scale of the outer series, red at the base and black at the tip; ventral shields with black posterior margins; muzzle light brown; ventral plates from 180 to 200.

The Black Snake is, I believe, the most common of all our venomous snakes; it frequents low marshy places, is fond of water, dives and swims well, and subsists principally upon frogs, page 47 lizards, insects, and the smaller mammalia, in particular the young of Hydromys leucogaster. On one occasion 16 young of this rat were taken out of a single Black Snake, so that the reptile must have plundered four rats' nests.

When irritated the Black Snake raises about two feet of its body off the ground, flattens out the neck like a Cobra, and then darts at its prey or enemy. The bite of this snake is highly venomous, killing good sized dogs or goats within an hour.

The number of young brought forth in March generally amounts to 15 or 20. During the winter the Black Snake retires into the ground.

I believe that the Black Snake is found in almost every part of Australia. On the Murray and farther north a Snake occurs which has generally been considered a variety of the Black Snake; it is identical with it in almost every particular except colour, being brown instead of black, and orange beneath. Whether this is really a distinct species or merely a variety is not quite certain. Dr. Günther has distinguished the brown variety, however, as P. australis, and I mention this as it is a belief with some people that the Brown Snake and the Black Snake are identical, and the coloration sexual. It is to be remembered that the Brown Snake of Sydney, (Diemenia superciliosa) is generically distinct from the Black Snake.