Reading 2 (Snakes)




SECTION 3 – Questions 1 – 13

Read the following passage and answer questions 1 – 13.




The most deadly Australian snake is undoubtedly the taipan (oxyuranus scutellatus). There are two types of taipan found in Australia, the coastal taipan and the inland or western taipan, the latter being the most venomous land snake found on earth.

Growing to a possible length of 2.9 metres, the taipan has a light olive to dark brown back with a lighter coloured head. The underbelly is cream in colour. The taipan can be found in open forests, coastal heaths, grassy beach dunes and cultivated areas such as cane fields. It lives in the far north of Australia and down the Queensland coast, but has been found as far north as the Murray River in western New South Wales.

The taipan is an aggressive hunter, moving at speed through grasslands with ease. On finding its prey by scent, the reptile flings itself at the victim and inflicts several rapid bites. Like most other venomous snakes, the taipan uses its venom sparingly. As they don’t regard man as prey, they have been known to strike and bite without releasing any venom at all, leading to no adverse effects.

Although the taipan is the deadliest Australian snake, few snakes can match the sinister reputation of the eastern tiger snake (notechis scutatis). However, recent observations indicate that their ferocity and aggressiveness are not as bad as once thought and that actually they are fairly timid. There are different types of tiger snake found in Australia but they are all highly poisonous and should be avoided. Until recently tiger snakes held the record for the most snakebite fatalities (now overtaken by the eastern brown snake).

The body of the tiger snake has cross bands of yellow or cream on a background of grey, green or brown and this is what gives them their name. They have a heavy build and can grow up to 1.8 metres. In the wild they are mainly a swamp dwelling species and are often found around waterways. Their habitat is now threatened by the clearing of such areas for development. They have been known, though, to climb into surrounding vegetation to a height of about 1 metre. They mainly feed on frogs and mice as adults but will take the odd bird or lizard.

Another highly dangerous Australian snake is the copperhead (austrelaps superbus). Although it is non-aggressive, if provoked it raises its forebody from the ground and flattens its neck, angry and hissing, ready to strike. Like all other Australian poisonous snakes it is an elapid, which means it has a neurotoxic venom. This venom mainly attacks the nerves of the body, but it also contains blood destroying properties. The poison from elapids is generally very dangerous to humans and the copperhead is no exception having very potent venom.

Colour and size vary with where you find the snake. However, they can grow up to 1.8 metres in length and can be tan, brown or black. One feature of copperheads is that they are more tolerant to cold and can be found lying in the sun in mid-winter when other snakes are hibernating.

The food of the copperhead, like most snakes, is frogs and reptiles. What is unusual is that they are threats to each other because they are sometimes prone to cannibalism.

Pythons are also found in Australia, the carpet python (morlelia spilota) being the most common. There are several different types of carpet python in Australia. They are widespread and can be found in a variety of habitat from wet tropics to dry, nearly arid, desert. They can be found in variable colours but usually have lighter blotches on a darker background. Carpet pythons are also bigger than most Australian snakes and can grow up to a length of almost 4 metres.

The carpet python is largely nocturnal and preys mainly on mammals, birds and reptiles. Non-venomous, pythons bite into their prey and, when the prey struggles, it only sinks further onto the fangs. Next, the python coils around the animal to squeeze its breath out or, in some cases, to constrict its muscles and cause the main blood vessels to burst.

One of the easiest snakes to identify in Australia is the bandy bandy (vermicelli annulata). This is a distinctly marked elapid snake with black and white bands around it. It is found in 80% of mainland Australia. The bandy bandy averages about 60cm in length but can grow up to 80cm. It is found in all types of habitat from rainforest to swamps to deserts. It is usually found during the day under cover or on a mild night moving around the ground.

The bandy bandy is a crepuscular or after-dark hunter though it seldom feeds due to its low metabolic rate. Unlike many of its cousins in Australia, it only feeds on blind snakes.

Being an elapid, the bandy bandy is definitely a poisonous snake and looks alarmingly dangerous as it resembles the Malay krait and, when threatened, will flatten its body and raise its body in an aggressive manner. However, the markings and behaviour are a bluff and its venom is only mild and virtually harmless to humans.


Questions 1 – 13

Using NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS, answer the following questions.

  1. Which snake is not an elapid?

Taipan – Tiger snake.

  1. Which snake will eat other snakes of the same species?


  1. Which snake doesn’t require much food?

Bandy bandy.

  1. Which snake is potentially the largest?

Carpet pythons.

  1. Which snake’s primary food is other snakes?

Frogs and reptiles.

  1. Which snake can sometimes be found in trees?



Questions 7 – 13

After reading the passage about Australian snakes, look at the statements below.


TRUE if the statement is true

FALSE if the statement is not true

NOT GIVEN if the information is not given in the passage

  1. A bite from a taipan is always fatal to humans. FALSE
  2. Tiger snakes got their name from their supposed aggressiveness. TRUE
  3. Elapid snakes are always poisonous TRUE
  4. Copperhead snake poison is not that harmful to humans. FALSE
  5. The carpet python can kill humans. NOT GIVEN
  6. Bandy bandy snakes are found outside Australia. FALSE
  7. You’ll never find a bandy bandy over 1 metre long. TRUE


General Training Test 1; Page 18 ©



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