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Pseudechis spp., Black snakes

Clinical entries


  • 1. Pseudechis australis
  • 2. Pseudechis butleri
  • 3. Pseudechis colletti
  • 4. Pseudechis guttatus
  • 5. Pseudechis pailsi
  • 6. Pseudechis papuanus
  • 7. Pseudechis porphyriacus
  • 8. Pseudechis rossignolii
  • 9. Pseudechis weigeli


The existence of a new described species, P. pailsei (Hoser 1998), has been questioned and considered conspecific with P. australis (Wüster et. al 2001), but it's validity has been confirmed by Maddock et al. (2016). Kuch et al. (2005) proposed the recognition of several species from within the widely distributed king brown snakes (P. australis), which exhibit considerable morphological variation. Pseudechis rossignolii and P. weigeli are confirmed as new species by Maddock et al. 2016.


Serpentes; Elapidae; Elapinae/Hydrophiinae

Common names

Black snakes

  • 1. Mulga, King brown snake
  • 2. Collett's snake
  • 3. Spotted black snake, Blue-bellied black snake
  • 4. Papuan black snake
  • 5. False King brown snake
  • 6. Red-bellied black snake


Australia and New Guinea. See link "Distribution" at the top of the page for detailed information.


  Map 38 Pseudechis spp.



Black snakes live in a wide range of habitats. P. guttatus prefers wetlands close to rivers, as does P. porphyriacus, which is, however, also often found in open grasslands. P. colletti, a rarely seen species, lives exclusively in natural grasslands. P. australis, the most common species of this genus, prefers arid habitats.

Black snakes are generally diurnal, but in the north of Australia and in New Guinea, as well as during hot weather in the south, they hunt at night.

The basic colouring of P. porphyriacus and P. guttatus is black, sometimes with a blueish or red belly (see the common names). The remaining species have a brown to dark colouring. The Mulga (P. australis) is generally brown, copper-coloured or of a red hue; dark or black specimens only exist in some southern areas. Mulgas can grow up to 3 m in length and have a sturdy body, while their relatives are smaller and more slender.

Black snakes are generally not aggressive; Mulgas, however, are quick to bite, and can inject considerable amounts of venom through chewing movements.


Although mouse experiments have shown that Mulga venom is not very toxic compared to that of other venomous Australian snakes, Mulgas possess the largest quantities of venom of all Australian elapids. Generally a great deal of venom is delivered by defensive strikes. The large quantities of venom, together with the frequency of these snakes and their aggressive temperament, make Mulgas one of the most dangerous species in Australia and New Guinea.


P. australis not only exhibits a remarkable diversity in morphological features,  but also in venom composition; within various localities of it's rage in Australia venom phospholipases A show considerable variation (Mebs 2001), so that substatial differences in venom effects are possible.


Envenoming occurs less rarely with other black snakes, but is still to be taken seriously.

Literature (biological)

Cogger 1986, Hoser 1998 b, 2000, Kuch et al. 2005, Maddock et al. 2016, Mirtschin et al. 1990, O'Shea 1990, 1996, 2005, Sutherland 1983