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Taxonomy of Pseudonaja (Reptilia: Elapidae) in Australia


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Posted by Richard Wells on March 24, 2002 at 04:57:00:


Hello all,

For those interested in the Elapidae, I have attached a recent paper on the genus Pseudonaja. It appeared in the Australian Biodiversity Record, 2002 (7): 1-48. Owing to its size, I have posted it in several parts.


Best Regards from


Richard Wells

AUSTRALIAN BIODIVERSITY RECORD
________________________________________________________
2002 (No 7) ISSN 1325-2992 March, 2002
________________________________________________________

Taxonomy of the Genus Pseudonaja (Reptilia: Elapidae) in Australia.

by

Richard W. Wells
“Shiralee”, Major West Road, Cowra, New South Wales, Australia


The clear morphological differences that exist within the genus as previously considered strongly indicate that it is a polyphyletic assemblage. Accordingly, I have taken the step of formally proposing the fragmentation of Pseudonaja. In this work I have decided to restrict the genus Pseudonaja to the Pseudonaja nuchalis complex. Additionally, I herein formally resurrect from synonymy the generic name Euprepiosoma Fitzinger, 1860 for the textilis group of species, erect a new generic name (Placidaserpens gen. nov.) for the snakes previously regarded as Pseudonaja guttata, erect a new generic name (Notopseudonaja gen. nov.) for the group of species previously regarded as the Pseudonaja modesta complex, and erect a new generic name (Dugitophis gen. nov.) for snakes previously regarded as the Pseudonaja affinis complex.

Genus Pseudonaja Gunther, 1858

The Pseudonaja nuchalis Complex

It is usually reported that Pseudonaja nuchalis occurs across most of northern, central and western Australia, ranging from Cape York Peninsula, in the north-east, through western, southern and south-eastern Queensland, far western New South Wales, north-western Victoria, and most of South Australia, Northern Territory and Western Australia. However, this distribution pattern is now known to actually represents several different species all regarded by most authorities for convenience as the single highly variable species, 'Pseudonaja nuchalis'. As usually defined, this actually is a highly variable and therefore confusing group of species to identify and it is not all surprising that there has been difficulty in breaking up the group. Another not insignificant reason behind this reticence to look at ‘Pseudonaja nuchalis’ more closely, is that all are highly venomous, very fast and numerous fatalities have resulted from their bites. Until recent years, virtually any description of this ‘species’ would state or infer that the colour and pattern is subject to considerable ontogenetic, geographic and even seasonal variation, and to an extent this is still true for the Pseudonaja nuchalis complex. Snakes presently regarded as ‘Western Brown Snakes’ in most texts have a basic body colour that can range across most shades of brown, right through to black, but creamish, yellow, orange and reddish variations are known. Some specimens with the orange or brown base colour are often totally unpatterned, or just barely marked with a few black scales on the neck (often arranged in a 'W' or 'V' pattern), while others can have the head and/or neck greyish, brownish or even jet black, with an unpatterned or patterned body. Patterning can vary from merely scattered black dorsal scales, to neat reticulations of dark-edged scales, to even broad dark rings, bands or blotches. Regardless of the dorsal colour and patterning, the ventral surface is usually light yellowish to pale orange or creamish with irregular rows of orange spots or small blotches in most areas. The colour of the buchal cavity is purplish-black. Juveniles usually have a generalised pattern of blackish head and neck patches and a body pattern of faint reticulations, but some juveniles have similar patterns to their respective adult 'variations'. As can be seen from this range of colour and pattern combinations, the ‘Western Brown Snake’ has been widely recorded over Australia since its original description. Morphologically, the scalation patterns appear conservative across the different taxa, so it may not be possible to identify the different taxa alone on the basis of a scale-count. However, recent investigators have now come to the conclusion that the 'Western Brown Snake' is in fact not one highly variable species, but several different species. To field naturalists this has not been all that much of a surprise for the differences in behaviour, habitat and morphology between the various populations more than hinted that a number of different species were in fact being lumped into the name Pseudonaja nuchalis. This snake has now been subjected to a range of morphological, genetic and biochemical investigations by some of the world’s leading scientists (see references), and it is now finally gaining wider acceptance that several different species have been unknowingly included under the name 'Pseudonaja nuchalis' in the past. Some of these 'variations' are included in this work as different species partly as a consequence of their distinctive chromosomal arrangements following the work of Mengden (1985).
Various estimates are that 'Pseudonaja nuchalis' may actually represent anywhere from 4 to in excess of 10 different species. In this work Pseudonaja nuchalis has been split into 8 different species - and all are supported by chromosomal evidence. Some (but by no means all) of the numerous 'variations' of this species often called 'Western Brown Snakes' are as follows:
Firstly, the snake that has been traditionally regarded as the ‘Western Brown Snake’ Pseudonaja nuchalis is in fact based on a specimen from near Arnhem Land. It is in actuality the most highly restricted of all the group and really would be more appropriately called the ‘Northern Brown Snake’ instead. Its colour pattern is one of striking wide dark bands on a yellowish-orange to orange-brown base colour.
The variation previously known as the 'southern morph' of Pseudonaja nuchalis, should now be called Pseudonaja aspidorhyncha. In this species the body colour may be any shade of uniform brown, and in most cases the body is unpatterned. Usually the head is slightly darker brown than the body, and there can be a few scattered black scales on the nape. In occasional specimens the head can be very dark brown and the body may have scattered but faint darker brown scales; in some individuals the head can be completely black.
In another ‘morph’ (now called Pseudonaja kellyi), the head and neck region are jet black (or sometimes very dark brown). The base colour of the body is yellowish-orange to orange-brown, with many of the dorsal scales marked with dark brown or black to form a transverse ziz-zag or even a 'herring-bone' pattern over the body. Juveniles have a similar colour and pattern to the adults, with the exception that the snout is paler followed by a darker interocular area and a dark brownish nape.
Another ‘morph’ (now called Pseudonaja imperitor), has the base colour of the body uniform tan-brown, and the ventral surface creamish. The snout is pale creamish-brown, followed by an interocular band of dark brown over the head. The nuchal area can have a few scattered black scales, or occasionally these can form a narrow band over the neck. Juveniles have a similar colour and pattern to the adults, with the exception that the darker interocular area and nape markings are more pronounced. There is quite pronounced seasonal colour change with this form - during the summer the entire body colour becomes much lighter brown, while during the (slightly) cooler winter (or dry season) it changes to a darker brown overall.
Another ‘morph’(now called Pseudonaja mengdeni) has a base body colour varying from tan-brown through to pale yellow or orange. There is a strong 'herring bone' pattern on the posterior two-thirds of the body caused through the arrangement of darker reddish-brown scales. The head and neck is usually pale brown (snout is paler) with a slightly darker interocular area. The neck is greyish-brown to darker brown, with a dark narrow row of black or very dark brown scales often forming a sharp boundary (sometimes in a 'V' shape) immediately anterior to the nape patch. Juveniles have a similar colour and pattern to the adults, with the exception that the darker interocular area and nape markings are more pronounced.
Another very distinctive ‘morph’ (now called Pseudonaja carinata) has the head brown, with the nape paler containing a few darker scales. The base body colour is pale creamish-brown, with the posterior of the body heavily banded with up to 13 (mostly 11) broad blotches or saddle-like bands of black. The dark blotches are slightly narrower than the paler interspaces anteriorly, but are as wide as or slightly wider than the pale areas posteriorly. Within the pale interspaces there are three or four narrow (1 scale wide) dark brown bands. Juveniles have a similar colour and pattern to the adults, with the exception that the head is darker and the broad dark body bands either completely encircle the body or break around the medial area of the ventrals. The WA population of this 'morph' appears to have a greater number of bands also and this could indicate that it may be taxonomically distinct in itself.
In still another ‘morph’ (now called Pseudonaja acutirostris) the base body colour is brownish to pale orange, with the body being strongly banded in black. Sometimes the anterior of the body is unpatterned, with exception of a couple of black scales on the neck or occasionally a blackish patch on the nape. More often however, the body has a series of (up to 14) very broad black bands, each of which is usually narrower than the paler interspaces. Within the paler areas there are a few thin faint bands of reddish-brown.
Another 'morph' (now called Pseudonaja gowi) has an overall plain brown body colour and reduced patterning. However, with this type there is the addition of a broad black band near the neck-nuchal area, and this is occasionally accompanied by a thin secondary collar of black at the anterior end of the neck band. Additionally, there can be a loose vertebral series of black scales on the posterior of the body. The ventral area is creamish with pale orange blotching.
There are many other variations that are apparently rarely encountered, some of which may represent other undescribed species, hybrids, or merely just colour variations of some of the above. This is a group of snakes that still requires urgent study.

Mitchell's Brown Snake
Pseudonaja acutirostris (Mitchell, 1951)

Previously known as the 'southern, orange with black bands morph', of Pseudonaja nuchalis, genetic studies by Mengden et al have proven its distinctiveness from that species, necessitating the re-instatement of the original name given it by Mitchell in 1955 - thus it should now be called Pseudonaja acutirostris.
Diagnosis: This is a medium to large species with a relatively slender body, and a small narrow head that is not distinct from the neck. The eye is large with a round pupil and a pale iris. As presently understood, this species has a distinctive chromosomal morphology (of the 2n=34 karyotype). Some features of this species' scalation are: nasal entire and in contact with preocular, no suboculars, postoculars 2 (occasionally 3), preocular higher than wide and separated from frontal, supralabials 6, infralabials 6, rostral higher than broad, usually extending back onto the top of the snout, temporals 1+2, canthus rostralis very strong, frontal shield longer than wide, and about as wide as a supraocular, body scales smooth in 17 (rarely 19) rows at mid-body, ventrals 180-230, anal divided, and subcaudals 50-70 divided. The base body colour is brownish to pale orange, with the body being strongly banded in black. Sometimes the anterior of the body is unpatterned, with exception of a couple of black scales on the neck or occasionally a blackish patch on the nape. More often however, the body has a series of (up to 14) very broad black bands, each of which is usually narrower than the paler interspaces. Within the paler areas there are a few thin faint bands of reddish-brown. It attains a maximum size of around 1.5 m in total length, but usually mature specimens are around 1.2 m.
Notes: This species has a scattered distribution over arid and semi-arid eastern and central Australia, ranging from western New South Wales, north-western Victoria, eastern and northern South Australia, and the southern part of the Northern Territory, and probably adjacent parts of Western Australia. Its principle habitat is open woodland and shrubs with scattered grass cover on open plains with stoney soils and in places low rocky hills. As in the case with all members of the Pseudonaja nuchalis complex, it is an oviparous species, producing up to 20 eggs in a clutch. The main diet comprises lizards but small mammals may also be taken. This snake is highly venomous and although there are no records of fatalities, urgent medical attention should be sought in the event of a bite, because this is most certainly a potentially dangerous species. Protected under the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Act (1974) but not listed in that State as a Threatened Species in any of the Schedules of the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act (1995). Additionally, it is protected under the Victorian Wildlife Act (1975) [but not listed as threatened in Schedule 2 of the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act (1988)], the SA National Parks and Wildlife Act (1972), the Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act (1998), and the WA Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 (as amended). Generally this species is regarded as being common over much of its range, but in Victoria its survival status may be classified as of 'Lower Risk - Near Threatened' because of its limited occurrence in that State. Further, it is possible that its present distribution pattern elsewhere suggests that its range has fragmented, so it may be considered as potentially vulnerable in some areas.

McCoy's Brown Snake
Pseudonaja aspidorhyncha (McCoy, 1879)

Previously known as the 'southern morph' of Pseudonaja nuchalis, recent genetic studies have proven its distinctiveness from that species, necessitating the re-instatement of the original name given it by Frederick McCoy in 1879 - thus it should now be called Pseudonaja aspidorhyncha.
Diagnosis: This is a large and relatively slender snake with a small narrow head not distinct from the neck, the eye is large with a round pupil and a pale reddish iris. As presently understood, this species has a distinctive chromosomal morphology (of the 2n=34 karyotype), and could actually represent at a minimum a polytypic species in itself. Some features of this species' scalation are: nasal entire and in contact with preocular, no suboculars, postoculars 2 (occasionally 3), preocular higher than wide and separated from frontal, supralabials 6, infralabials 6, rostral higher than broad, usually extending back onto the top of the snout, temporals 1+2, canthus rostralis very strong, frontal shield longer than wide, and about as wide as a supraocular, body scales smooth in 17 (rarely 19) rows at mid-body, ventrals 180-230, anal divided, and subcaudals 50-70 divided. The body colour may be any shade of uniform brown, and in most cases the body is unpatterned. The head is slightly darker brown than the body, and there can be a few scattered black scales on the nape. In occasional specimens the head can be very dark brown and the body may have scattered but faint darker brown scales; in some individuals the head can be completely black. Ventrally the base colour is creamish with scattered orange spots. Attains a maximum size of around 1.5 m in total length, but usually mature specimens are around 1.2 m.
Notes: This species is distributed over a wide area of arid and semi-arid Australia, ranging from western and southern Queensland, western New South Wales, northern South Australia, and central and southern Western Australia. Its principle habitat is open woodland and semi-arid shrubland on red soil plains. An oviparous species, it produces around 20 eggs in a clutch. The main diet comprises lizards but small mammals may also be consumed. This snake is highly venomous and although there is no direct evidence for fatalities resulting from its bite, urgent medical attention should be sought in the event of a bite, because this is most certainly a potentially dangerous species. It is fully protected under the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Act (1974) but not listed in that State as a Threatened Species in any of the Schedules of the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act (1995). Also protected under the SA National Parks and Wildlife Act (1972), the WA Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 (as amended) and the Qld Nature Conservation Act (1992). The conservation status of this species is at present unknown, but it may be considered as potentially vulnerable due to its limited distribution and specialised habitat requirements. Regarded as mostly a very common species over its range, however, some populations may have very restricted distributions.

Longman's Brown Snake
Pseudonaja carinata (Longman, 1915)

Previously known as the 'carinata morph' or the 'banded' form, of Pseudonaja nuchalis, recent genetic studies have proven its distinctiveness from that species, necessitating the re-instatement of the original name given it by Heber Longman in 1915 - thus it should now be called Pseudonaja carinata.
Diagnosis: This is another medium to large but relatively slender species, Longman’s Brown Snake has a small narrow head not distinct from the neck, the eye is large with a round pupil and a pale iris. As presently understood, this species has a distinctive chromosomal morphology (of the 2n=34 karyotype). Some features of this species' scalation are: nasal entire and in contact with preocular, no suboculars, postoculars 2 (occasionally 3), preocular higher than wide and separated from frontal, supralabials 6, infralabials 6, rostral higher than broad, usually extending back onto the top of the snout, temporals 1+2, canthus rostralis very strong, frontal shield longer than wide, and about as wide as a supraocular, body scales smooth in 17 (rarely 19) rows at mid-body, ventrals 180-230, anal divided, and subcaudals 50-70 divided. The head is brown, the nape is paler with a few darker scales. The base body colour is pale creamish-brown, with the posterior of the body heavily banded with up to 13 (mostly 11) broad blotches or saddle-like bands of black. The dark blotches are slightly narrower than the paler interspaces anteriorly, but are as wide as or slightly wider than the pale areas posteriorly. Within the pale interspaces there are three or four narrow (1 scale wide) dark brown bands. Juveniles have a similar colour and pattern to the adults, with the exception that the head is darker and the broad dark body bands either completely encircle the body or break around the medial area of the ventrals. The WA population appears to have a greater number of bands also, and this may indicate that it is taxonomically distinct in itself. Attains a maximum size of around 1.5 m in total length, but usually mature specimens are around 1.2 m.
Notes: As presently defined this species is distributed over a wide area of arid and semi-arid Australia, ranging from western and southern Queensland, western New South Wales, possibly north-eastern South Australia, and an apparently isolated population also occurs in the semi-arid south-west Western Australia (although this population has superficial similarities to Pseudonaja acutirostris). Its principle habitat is open grassy plains with scattered low shrubs and open woodland. This is an oviparous species, producing up to 20 eggs in a clutch. Feeds mainly on lizards and small mammals. This snake is highly venomous and although there are no records of fatalities, urgent medical attention should be sought in the event of a bite, because this is most certainly a potentially dangerous species. It is protected under the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Act (1974) but not listed in that State as a Threatened Species in any of the Schedules of the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act (1995). Also protected under the Victorian Wildlife Act (1975) [but not listed in Schedule 2 of the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act (1988)], the SA National Parks and Wildlife Act (1972), the WA Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 (as amended) and the Qld Nature Conservation Act (1992). The conservation status of this species is at present unknown, but it is regarded as mostly a very common species over its range. In some parts of its range however, it may be considered as potentially vulnerable (due to its apparently fragmented distribution and specialised habitat requirements).

Gow's Brown Snake
Pseudonaja gowi sp. nov.

Previously known as the 'southern with black nuchal band morph' of Pseudonaja nuchalis, recent genetic studies have proven its specific distinctiveness. As presently understood, this species has a distinctive chromosomal morphology (of the 2n=34 karyotype). This is another medium to large but relatively slender species with a small narrow head not distinct from the neck, the eye is large with a round pupil and a reddish iris. Some features of this species' scalation are: nasal entire and in contact with preocular, no suboculars, postoculars 2 (occasionally 3), preocular higher than wide and separated from frontal, supralabials 6, infralabials 6, rostral higher than broad, usually extending back onto the top of the snout, temporals 1+2, canthus rostralis very strong, frontal shield longer than wide, and about as wide as a supraocular, body scales smooth in 17 (rarely 19) rows at mid-body, ventrals 180-230, anal divided, and subcaudals 50-70 divided. Very similar in colour and pattern to Pseudonaja aspidorhyncha, with its overall plain brown body colour and reduced patterning. However, there is the addition of a broad black band near the neck-nuchal area, and this is occasionally accompanied by a thin secondary collar of black at the anterior end of the neck band. Additionally, there can be a loose vertebral series of black scales on the posterior of the body. The ventral area is creamish with pale orange blotching. Attains a maximum size of around 1.5 m in total length, but usually mature specimens are around 1.2 m. I hereby choose as Type Locality: Lyndhurst, South Australia and designate the holotype as being the largest specimen of this species from the vicinity of Lyndhurst, SA in the South Australian Museum collection.
Notes: This species has a scattered distribution over arid and semi-arid eastern and central Australia, ranging from south-western Queensland, north-western and far western New South Wales, to eastern and north-eastern South Australia. It is known from a range of temperate semi-arid shrublands. An oviparous species, producing about 20 eggs in a clutch. Feeds mainly on lizards and small mammals. This snake is highly venomous and has almost certainly been the cause of a number of fatalities in the past, so urgent medical attention should be sought in the event of a bite. It is protected under the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Act (1974) but not listed in that State as a Threatened Species in any of the Schedules of the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act (1995). Also protected under the SA National Parks and Wildlife Act (1972) and the Qld Nature Conservation Act (1992). Although regarded as mostly a very common species over its range, some populations may have very restricted distributions. At present, its conservation status is unknown, but this species may be considered as potentially vulnerable in some parts of its range due to its fragmented distribution and specialised habitat requirements. The name 'gowi' honours Australian herpetologist Graeme Francis Gow.

Western Brown Snake
Pseudonaja imperitor Wells and Wellington, 1985

Previously known as the 'Darwin morph' or 'brown with black head' form, of Pseudonaja nuchalis, recent genetic studies have proven its distinctiveness from that species, necessitating the re-instatement of the original name given it - thus it should now be called Pseudonaja imperitor.
Diagnosis: This is another medium to large but relatively slender snake with a small narrow head not distinct from the neck, the eye is large with a round pupil and a pale iris. As presently understood, this species has a distinctive chromosomal morphology (of the 2n=30 karyotype). Some features of this species' scalation are: nasal entire and in contact with preocular, no suboculars, postoculars 2 (occasionally 3), preocular higher than wide and separated from frontal, supralabials 6, infralabials 6, rostral higher than broad, usually extending back onto the top of the snout, temporals 1+2, canthus rostralis very strong, frontal shield longer than wide, and about as wide as a supraocular, body scales smooth in 17 (rarely 19) rows at mid-body, ventrals 180-230, anal divided, and subcaudals 50-70 divided. The base colour of the body is uniform tan-brown, and the ventral surface is creamish. The snout is pale creamish-brown, followed by an interocular band of dark brown over the head. The nuchal area can have a few scattered black scales, or occasionally these can form a narrow band over the neck. Juveniles have a similar colour and pattern to the adults, with the exception that the darker interocular area and nape markings are more pronounced. There is quite pronounced seasonal colour change with this form - during the summer the entire body colour becomes much lighter brown, while during the (slightly) cooler winter (or dry season) it changes to a darker brown overall. Attains a maximum size of around 1.5 m in total length, but usually mature specimens are around 1.2 m. Its distribution is restricted to scattered areas across a wide area of central and northern Australia. Pseudonaja imperitor occurs in north-western Queensland, and into much of the Northern Territory, in particular the far north of the NT (including Arnhem Land and some offshore islands) and the far north of Western Australia (in the northern Kimberley region). At present, it is unknown whether this species' distribution is continuous, or merely composed of a few isolated populations. This species occurs in a variety of habitats, but usually open savanna woodland areas with a dense ground cover of grasses are favoured; it has also been found in the vicinity of rock outcroppings. It is an oviparous species, producing less than 20 eggs in a clutch. The main diet is lizards but small mammals may also be consumed. This snake is highly venomous and has caused a number of fatalities, so urgent medical attention should be sought in the event of a bite. Protected under the Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act (1998), the WA Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 (as amended) and the Qld Nature Conservation Act (1992). This is mostly a very common species over its range, however, some populations may have very restricted distributions. As the conservation status of some apparently restricted populations is unknown, they may be considered as potentially vulnerable. The name 'imperitor' means 'commander in chief', and alludes to the defensive behaviour of this species when disturbed.

Kelly's Brown Snake
Pseudonaja kellyi Wells and Wellington, 1985

Previously known as the 'orange with black head morph' or 'hooded' form, of Pseudonaja nuchalis, recent genetic studies have proven its distinctiveness from that species, necessitating the re-instatement of the original name given it - thus it should now be called Pseudonaja kellyi.
Diagnosis: This is a moderately large but relatively slender species with a small narrow head not distinct from the neck, the eye is large with a round pupil and a pale iris. As presently understood, this species has a distinctive chromosomal morphology (of the 2n=32 karyotype). Some features of this species' scalation are: nasal entire and in contact with preocular, no suboculars, postoculars 2 (occasionally 3), preocular higher than wide and separated from frontal, supralabials 6, infralabials 6, rostral higher than broad, usually extending back onto the top of the snout, temporals 1+2, canthus rostralis very strong, frontal shield longer than wide, and about as wide as a supraocular, body scales smooth in 17 (rarely 19) rows at mid-body, ventrals 180-230, anal divided, and subcaudals 50-70 divided. The head and neck region are jet black (or sometimes very dark brown). The base colour of the body is yellowish-orange to orange-brown, with many of the dorsal scales marked with dark brown or black to form a transverse ziz-zag or even a 'herring-bone' pattern over the body. Juveniles have a similar colour and pattern to the adults, with the exception that the snout is paler followed by a darker interocular area and a dark brownish nape. Attains a maximum size of around 1.5 m in total length, but usually mature specimens are around 1.2 m.
Notes: Pseudonaja kellyi is distributed over a wide area of arid and semi-arid Australia, ranging from western and southern Queensland, central-western New South Wales, northern South Australia, the southern half of the Northern Territory, and right across to the far west coast of Western Australia. An apparently isolated population also occurs in the northern Kimberley region as well. It lives in a variety of semi-arid and arid shrubland to open woodland habitats on sand plains and in the vicinity of rocky ranges. This is an oviparous species, and although there are no records of clutch-size its body length indicates that it may producing around 20 eggs in a clutch. The diet comprises lizards and small mammals. This snake is highly venomous and has almost certainly been the cause of a number of fatalities in the past, so urgent medical attention should be sought in the event of a bite. Protected under the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Act (1974) but not listed in that State as a Threatened Species in any of the Schedules of the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act (1995). Also protected under the SA National Parks and Wildlife Act (1972), the Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act (1998), the WA Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 (as amended) and the Qld Nature Conservation Act (1992). The conservation status of Pseudonaja kellyi is at present unknown, but some populations may be considered as potentially vulnerable due to its fragmented distribution and specialised habitat requirements. Although regarded as mostly a very common species over its range, some populations appear to have very restricted distributions. The name kellyi was bestowed in recognition of the highly defensive behaviour of this snake when confronted - 'kellyi' recalls the Australian folk hero Ned Kelly, who was noted for standing his ground against insurmountable odds.


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