One tough mudder: banded snake discovered in South Australia for first time

By Candice Marshall 10 October 2022
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A native venomous snake, endangered in Victoria, has slithered its way across the border.

The mud adder (Denisonia devisi), also known as the De Vis’ banded snake or the Devis’s banded snake, is a common sight in Queensland and northern New South Wales. It’s also found in parts of Victoria, but is so rare it is listed as critically endangered.

Now the species has been sighted even further south, just across the South Australian border, igniting calls for greater conservation efforts.

The snake was spotted by University of South Australia (UniSA) PhD student Shawn Scott and a team of local herpetologists in the Chowilla Game Reserve near Renmark.

The mud adder (Denisonia devisi) is a front-fanged medium-sized snake, up to 60cm in length, yellow-to-orange-brown, or olive basal in colour, and often confused with a death adder.

Frogs are its main diet.

The snake’s scientific and common names refer to Charles Walter de Vis (1829–1915), first director of the Queensland Museum and renowned herpetologist.


Incredibly, the species wasn’t just spotted once, but several times near an isolated pool in the reserve.

In total, four males were seen, confirms Shawn.

“We found one with its head exposed and its body and tail concealed in a soil crack while biting onto the left hind limb and thigh of a large adult Southern Bell frog,” he says.

“We also observed [the snake] strengthening its bite on the frog’s thigh, likely to stop it escaping and then injecting its venom. Because these snakes are ambush predators, we think it may have been foraging near the surface and through chemoreception (using its tongue to detect scent particles), located and struck the frog.”
The three other snakes were all found in the same vicinity.

“If we are to mitigate biodiversity loss among our reptiles, we need to monitor not only remote or poorly understood ecosystems, but also areas that have extensive survey histories, which could result in the discovery of species that may have been undetected in the past,” adds Shawn.

The discovery is published in the latest issue of Herpetological Conservation and Biology, titled ‘De Vis’ Banded Snake, Denisonia devisi (Squamata: Elapidae): an addition to the elapid fauna of South Australia with notes on its ecology and conservation’.

Related: Everything you need to know about snakes