Myall snake Suta suta

Warning: Venomous/bite can be painful

Suta suta (pronounced Sue-tah sue-tah) is a species of venomous heavily built snake in the family Elapidae. The species, which is native to Australia, is commonly referred to as the curl snake, and also known more commonly in Western Australia as the myall snake. The curl snake is often confused with a similar species named the Ord curl snake (Suta ordensis).

Description

The average length of the curl snake is 40 cm (16 in) although it has been known to reach lengths of 60 cm (24 in) or more. It has a wide head and is dark brown or reddish brown in colour, with a distinctively darker head and paler under the flanks. The light-coloured iris and small pupil are distinctive features of this species. Suta suta also has a temporal dark-edged stripe (typically orange in colour) that extends around from each eye to the snout. Sometimes the edges of the vertebral scales can be darker resulting in a reticulated pattern from which the Latin name suta, meaning "stitched", is derived.

Scale count information for identification:

Dorsal scale rows at mid-body – 19 to 21, normally in 19 rows and rarely in 21.
Ventrals – 150 to 170 with a single cloacal scale.
Subcaudals – 20 to 35 single (undivided) scales.

Habitat/ecology and distribution

The curl snake can be found in all states and territories of Australia excluding Tasmania. It typically occurs in arid eastern and central Australia. In Victoria the curl snake occurs only in the north and central regions and in Western Australia it is restricted to the far north eastern boundaries. It most commonly inhabits grasslands, scrublands and open woodlands, foraging amongst leaf litter and under rocks at night. It can be found occupying old burrows, soil cracks, under woody debris and under leaf litter.

The conservation status of this species is considered secure in all states except Victoria where it is considered to be vulnerable. This species is a nocturnal forager and is threatened by the decline in ground cover across its habitats.

Diet

The curl snake feeds mostly upon other small reptiles such as lizards but will also consume small mammals and frogs to supplement its diet. Mammals may account for up to 20% of the Suta suta dietary intake. The most commonly consumed reptiles include geckos, skinks, legless lizards, other snakes and dragons.

Reproduction

Suta suta is viviparous rather than oviparous and bears live young in an average litter of five. The litter size can range from 1-7 individuals. Hatchling length averages 15 cm long.

Behavior

The curl snake derives its common name from the characteristic defensive posture it assumes when threatened. They are known to curl up tightly into a spring-like coil protecting the head. The defensive behaviour proceeding is usually a violent thrashing about.

Toxic

Suta suta venom is neurotoxic and considered unsafe especially to small children. Bites from large specimens would be considered especially dangerous. If bitten one should seek medical advice immediately, immobilise the patient, and apply a pressure bandage.