Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing: Death Adder Uses Tail to Lure Prey

Photo: Anne Skyvington

The common death adder got its name for a reason. Not only are they one of the most venomous snakes in the world, but they can lure their prey and strike before they’re none the wiser.

Natives of Australia, death adders are credited with having the longest fangs among Australian snakes as well as the quickest strike.

Found in forests, woodlands, and grasslands on the eastern coast of Australia, these snakes are masters of camouflage thanks to their banded stripes.

Death adders mainly eat small mammals and birds of prey but they have some hunting habits that set them apart from other snakes. Unlike other slinky species, death adders are known to wait days for a poor prey species to pass. Covered in debris and leaves, the hidden predator lies in wait. But most interestingly, they use their secret weapon – their grub-like tail to lure prey as close as possible.

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This tactic is known as aggressive mimicry, a form of mimicry used by predators and parasites. In this practice, predators pose as something harmless – a grub – disguising themselves to their prey. Zoologists often refer to this strategy as a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

And it works. Once in striking distance, the death adder strikes before the prey even knows what hit it, injecting venom and waiting for it to die before making it a meal.

Photo: ©CNZdenek

While death adders are not known to be aggressive, they won’t hesitate to strike if they are stepped on, making them a major threat to humans wandering in the bush.

Their extremely toxic venom contains a neurotoxin that can cause paralysis or death. If you happen to be bitten by one, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention. The venom can kill a human within six hours.


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