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Acanthophis hawkei WELLS & WELLINGTON, 1985

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Higher TaxaElapidae (Hydrophiinae), Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common Names 
SynonymAcanthophis hawkei WELLS & WELLINGTON 1985: 43
Acanthophis cummingi HOSER 1998
Acanthophis cummingi — WELLS 2002
Acanthophis hawkei — WELLS 2002
Acanthophis hawkei — FRY et al. 2002
Acanthophis hawkei — WÜSTER et al. 2004
Acanthophis hawkei — WALLACH et al. 2014: 4
Acanthophis hawkei — ELLIS et al. 2021 
DistributionAustralia (Queensland)

cummingi: Australia (N Northern Territory, vicinity of Darwin)

bottomi: Groote Eylandt, Gulf of Carpentaria, Northern Territory

Type locality: 1.5 miles south west of Brunette Downs Station homestead, Barkly Tablelands, NT  
TypesHolotype: NTM R3677, H van Dyk, 20.iv.1977. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: A large member of the Acanthophis antarcticus complex, believed confined to the blacksoil plains of the Barkly Tablelands, Northern Territory. This species is the largest of the genus Acanthophis, reaching a maximum total length of 1.2 m. It is an abundant snake, particularly in the Anthony's Lagoon area, N.T., during favourable weather. This most spectacular of the death adders feeds on small mammals and has large quantities of highly toxic venom that may have application for medical research. It was first discovered by Dr Ross K. Pengilley, a scientist carrying out wildlife survey work in the region, whilst employed by the Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory. Specimens were sent to the Northern Territory Museum in Darwin where they have remained largely unstudied. It is understood that an amateur herpetologist in Darwin has bred this species in captivity but as yet nothing has been published on this exciting event. Juveniles of this species are distinctly yellowish orange with grey and black flecking in contrast to its near relative A. lancasteri sp. nov. which tends to be more uniform brown with lighter transverse banding. Wells and Peterson, (1985 in press) provide an illustration of this species and its relatives, as well as ecological and morphological data. (Wells & Wellington 1985: 43) 
CommentSynonymy: “... a captive male Acanthophis (similar to and possibly A. hawkei) from near Camooweal, Queensland, mated with a female Hayes Creek, Northern Territory A. lancasteri to produce 31 healthy offspring in 1997” (HOSER 1998). This indicates that both belong to the same species. Not listed by COGGER 2000. Protein data suggest that this species may be a valid (FRY et al. 2002).
A. cummingi is a questionable species. The taxonomy of Acanthophis remains largely unresolved (W. Wüster, pers. comm., and Wüster et al. 1999).
Based on the nomenclature rules, the name cummingi needs to be emended to cummingae (fide WÜSTER et al. 2001). WÜSTER (pers. comm.) considers A. cummingi as synonym of A. hawkei.

EtymologyNamed for the Prime Minister of Australia, The Rt. Hon. Robert J. Hawke, in recognition of his part in saving the Tasmanian Wilderness. 
  • Cogger, H. G. 2014. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, 7th ed. CSIRO Publishing, xxx + 1033 pp. - get paper here
  • Eipper, S. & Eipper, T. 2019. An Instance of Dermatophagy in Captive Floodplain Death Adders Acanthophis hawkei (Wells & Wellington, 1985). Captive & Field Herpetology 3 (1): 22 - get paper here
  • ELLIS, RYAN J.; HINRICH KAISER, SIMON T. MADDOCK, PAUL DOUGHTY & WOLFGANG WÜSTER 2021. An evaluation of the nomina for death adders (Acanthophis Daudin, 1803) proposed by Wells & Wellington (1985), and confirmation of A. cryptamydros Maddock et al., 2015 as the valid name for the Kimberley death adder Zootaxa 4995 (1): 161–172 - get paper here
  • Fry, Bryan G.; Janith C. Wickramaratna, Wayne C. Hodgson, Paul F. Alewood, R. M. Kini, Hao Ho and Wolfgang Wüster 2002. Electrospray liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry fingerprinting of Acanthophis (death adder) venoms: taxonomic and toxinological implications. Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom. 16 (6): 600-8. - get paper here
  • Hoser, R. 1998. Death Adders (Genus Acanthophis): An overview, including descriptions of five new species and one subspecies. Monitor 9 (2): 20-41 - get paper here
  • Wallach, Van; Kenneth L. Williams , Jeff Boundy 2014. Snakes of the World: A Catalogue of Living and Extinct Species. [type catalogue] Taylor and Francis, CRC Press, 1237 pp.
  • Wells, R. W. and Wellington, C. R. 1985. A synopsis of the Amphibia and Reptilia of Australia. Australian Journal of Herpetology, Supplementary Series (1): 62-64.
  • Wells, R. W. and Wellington, C. R. 1985. A classification of the Amphibia and Reptilia of Australia. Australian Journal of Herpetology, Supplementary Series (1): 1-61 [sometimes cited as 1983] - get paper here
  • Wells, Richard W. 2002. Taxonomy the Genus Acanthophis (Reptilia: Elapidae) in Australia. Australian Biodiversity Record (5): 1-16
  • Wüster, W., B. Bush, J. S. Keogh, M. O'Shea, and R. Shine 2001. Taxonomic contributions in the "amateur" literature: comments on recent descriptions of new genera and species by Raymond Hoser. Litteratura Serpentium 21 (3): 86-91 - get paper here
  • Wüster, W.; Philippe Golay; David A. Warrell 1999. Synopsis of recent developments in venomous snake systematics, No. 3. Toxicon 37: 1123-1129 - get paper here
  • Wüster, Wolfgang; Alex J. Dumbrell; Chris Hay; Catharine E. Pook; David J. Williams and Bryan Grieg Fry 2004. Snakes across the Strait: trans-Torresian phylogeographic relationships in three genera of Australasian snakes (Serpentes: Elapidae: Acanthophis, Oxyuranus, and Pseudechis). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 33 (3): 1-14 - get paper here
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