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Death Adder

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The Mythology of the Unique Snake, the Death Adder

The death adder is a unique snake, with a fascinating and menacing reputation – hence why it gets its name. Livestock, pets and even humans have been reported to have been killed by this species. It is believed to represent death and in most cultures has a deeply entrenched mythology associated with it. Let’s have a look at some of the myths about this snake, and why it is so feared.

What is a Death Adder?

The death adder is a species of venomous snake found throughout Australia and New Zealand, as well as parts of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. As the name suggests, it is an adder snake, which is any species of viper that belongs to the Viperidae family. Its scientific name is Acanthophis antarcticus, and it is a relatively small species that can grow up to 65 cm (2.1 ft).

The Death Adder’s Appearance

The look of the death adder can be quite intimidating. Its thick body is reddish-brown or black, and covered with dark crossbands. The head is shaped like a wedge, which is where its name comes from, and is two to three times the width of its neck. Its eyes are unique because they have vertical pupils, and its tail is long and tapering.

The Death Adder’s Habitat

The death adder lives in dry, arid grasslands, woodlands and rainforests where there is plenty of cover and damp ground. It is generally found in places where there is ample moisture, including along waterways, on cliffs or in burrows or crevices. It is a solitary animal and rarely interacts with other snakes or creatures.

Death Adder two

The Death Adder’s Prey

The death adder primarily feeds on small animals such as rodents, lizards, frogs and other small reptiles. It also has a surprisingly sophisticated hunting technique and is an ambush predator. It will lay down in the sand and wait for its potential prey to walk by, then strike with lightning speed.

The Myths and Legends of the Death Adder

Death adders have been shrouded in mythology and legends since ancient times. In Australian aboriginal mythology, the death adder is often thought to be a messenger of death. It is believed to be the spirit of one who has died and carries a venom so powerful that it can kill on contact. In some Aboriginal cultures, it is also a symbol of fertility and strength.

In Maori culture, it is believed that the death adder died in the original Garden of Eden, and is therefore a symbol of death and evil. The snake is also associated with malign forces in many Asian and African cultures.

The Danger of the Death Adder

The death adder is one of the most dangerous snakes in Australia, and probably the most dangerous in New Zealand. It is a very agile and fast-striking snake, and its venom is more dangerous than that of most other snakes as it is neurotoxic, meaning it attacks the nervous system.

If bitten by a death adder, it is essential to seek medical attention immediately and keep the bitten limb immobilised. Treatment is available, and the prognosis is generally good if administered quickly.


The death adder is a unique and often feared species in human culture, and it is easy to understand why. Its intimidating looks, harmful venom and reputation as the bringer of death has earned it a mysterious and sometimes evil reputation throughout the world. It is essential to be aware of its presence and to stay away from this creature if possible.

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