Dangerous Australian Animals

Some of the animals for which Australia is infamous.

Australia is a nice place to live and a great place to visit but some of its wildlife is quite dangerous even deadly. This includes, but is not limited to, snakes, spiders, crocodiles and various sea life.

This is a list and description of some of the animals that people should be aware of. It is not meant to be exhaustive or complete. (pictures will be added) Some first aid is suggested, but obviously common sense should prevail regarding these animals and whether or not medical attention should be sought if an injury occurs.

irukanji Irukandji Jellyfish

The Irukandji inhabits Northen Australian waters. It is known to be deadly but is very hard to see in the water because it is only 2.5cm (1in) in diameter. The venom can cause death to humans within days. The Irukanji is related to another deadly jellyfish, the Box Jellyfish.

"Jellyfish suits" can be obtained to wear while swimming during the animal's active months when there is likely to be a lot of them in the warm water. Alternatively a suit can be made from two pairs of pantyhose. One is worn as usual on the lower half and the other is inverted, a hole made in the crutch, and worn on the upper body. This prevents the tentacles from touching the skin.

First Aid consists of painkillers mostly as the venom causes excruciating pain. The role of vinegar to deactivate undischarged nematocysts remains uncertain as initial work has yielded inconclusive results. Irukandji sting victims frequently require hospitalisation for analgesia and sometimes intravenous antihypertensive therapy. Cardiac arrhythmias and cardiac failure may also require treatment, including inotropic support. No definitive treatment is currently available for Irukandji syndrome.

box jellyfish Box Jellyfish

The Box Jellyfish or Sea Wasp is a very dangerous creature to inhabit Australian waters. The jellyfish has extreme toxins present on its tentacles, which when in contact with a human, can stop cardio-respiratory functions in as little as three minutes. This jellyfish is responsible for more deaths in Australian than snakes, sharks and Salt Water crocodiles. The creature has a square box-shaped body and inhabits the north eastern areas of Australia. The tentacles may reach up to 80cm in length. It is found along the coast of the Great Barrier Reef.

"Jellyfish suits" can be obtained to wear while swimming during the animal's active months when there is likely to be a lot of them in the warm water. Alternatively a suit can be made from two pairs of pantyhose. One is worn as usual on the lower half and the other is inverted, a hole made in the crutch, and worn on the upper body. This prevents the tentacles from touching the skin.

First Aid consists of domestic vinegar (never methylated spirit or alcohol) being poured liberally over the adhering tentacles as soon as possible. Tentacular material may then be removed. Artificial respiration and cardiac massage may be required. Try and get the patient transported to an appropriate medical facility as soon as possible.

Rachael Shardlow's miraculous survival

blue bottle Blue Bottle Jellyfish

In Australia and New Zealand this jellyfish is known as the "Blue Bottle" due to its colour and shape on a beach. Elsewhere it is known as the "Portuguese Man'o'War" as it is said to look like a Portuguese battleship with a sail.

This jellyfish is actually made up of zooids. The Blue Bottle is not a single organism, but made up of a number of zooids. Each zooid has a specific role and together they function as if they were a single animal. For example a number of zooids will make up the stinging tentacles, others will make up the feeding tentacles, some form the "sail" and so on. The Blue Bottle feeds on small fish and other small ocean creatures. They envelope their prey with their tentacles, where a poison is released thus paralysing its prey before being consumed. The tentacles adhere extremely well to their prey as they are covered with barbed hooks. Their colour can range from a blue to a pink hue, with a translucent body. The float or body measures between 3cm and 15cm. The tentacles can range in length from 15cm up to 10m.

First aid consists of removal of the tentacles, preferably with forceps. Vinegar is not recommended. Painkillers may be required, although most stings respond to ice packs and/or topical anaesthetic agents. If a tentacle attaches itself to a human, it releases a poison (through the use of nematocysts), and if you continue to rub the skin after the tentacle has been removed more poison or venom will be released. If you are stung, it is best to wash the area without touching. A cold pack should be used to relieve the pain. If stung, please consult a doctor immediately. No fatalities have ever been reported within Australia or New Zealand from the sting of a Blue Bottle.

Salt Water Crocodile Salt Water (Estuarine) Crocodile

The Saltwater Crocodile is the world's largest reptile. These amazing creatures are found on the northern coast of Australia and inland for up to 100km or more. The Saltwater Crocodile has been reported to grow to lengths of over 7 metres, but the average size of a Saltwater Crocodile is 4 metres long. The crocodile is now a protected species in Australia, however if human danger is a factor, the crocodile will be moved away from possible contact. Many years ago Australia used to export crocodile skin, this is now illegal.

blue ringedbottleBlue Ringed Octopus

The Blue Ringed Octopus is a deadly venomous octopus which inhabits warm waters and shallow reefs off the coast of Australia. It also lives off the coast of New Guinea, Indonesia and the Phillipines. This octopus has distinctive blue rings (hence its name) on its body and eight tentacles. With the tentacles spread, it can reach about 20cm in diameter. About the size of a golf ball, or even smaller at times, its venom is highly toxic to humans and there is no known antivenom. The venom neurotoxins, and can lead to paralysis, and will, if left untreated, result in cardiac arrest. The venom is such that the victim is aware of his surroundings, and is able to understand what is taking place, but can not breath or move. The tiny poison octopus carries enough venom to kill about 25 humans.It is possible to make a recovery from the venom though provided that supportive care is given to the victim of the bite. Supported breathing for several hours will be necessary. The Blue Ringed Octopus is a very timid and reclusive creature so encounters with humans are quite rare. Stings usually occur as the result of the animal being disturbed or touched. It secludes itself in the cracks and crevices between rocks during the day and comes out at night to hunt for crabs, which is its primary prey but it will feed other on small sea creatures, and wounded fish.

great white shark Great White Shark

The Great White Shark or affectionally known as the "Great White" belongs to a group of sharks named Mackerel Sharks. Its common name was derived from the shark's white underbelly. They tend to be solitary animals, but have also been reported to swim in pairs or groups. They are found on all coasts of Australia, and furthermore throughout the World. They range between 3.5m to 5m long, and weigh on average 1300kg. The females are larger than males. The Great White is grey in colour from the top, and white underneath. They have on average 2800 teeth, all in rows and triangle in shape, which are slanted on an angle inwards, which helps keep hold of their prey. Being predatory animals, they feed on seals and other fish including other sharks. They can even tackle small whales. They tend to attack their prey once, and then wait and let the prey bleed to death. They have an amazing sense of smell, and can pick up blood in water from several kilometres away. This helps them to track down prey, or potential prey. Although human remains have been found in the stomachs of these sharks, it is not confirmed that Great Whites actively hunt humans. It is thought that humans on the surface of the water are confused with seals or similar animals, and that the thrashing sounds we make in the water sound like those of an animal in distress. Death is usually caused by blood loss and shock caused by massive trauma.

stone fish Stone Fish

The Stonefish is another of Australia's deadly marine creatures. They inhabit shallow waters along the coast. The stonefish is well camouflaged in the ocean, as it is a brownish colour, and often resembles a rock, hence the name. It has thirteen sharp venom carrying dorsal spines. People swimming in the ocean need to take care, as they can unknowingly step on a Stonefish and have venom injected into their foot. The venom of a stonefish is very toxic and can kill a human in two hours.

fierce snake Inland Taipan (Fierce Snake)

The Inland Taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus), also known as the Small Scaled Snake and Fierce Snake, is native to Australia and is regarded as the most venomous land snake in the world based on LD50 values in mice. It is a species of taipan belonging to the Elapidae family. Although highly venomous, it is very shy and reclusive, and always prefers to escape from trouble (the word "fierce" from its alternate name describes its venom, not its temperament).

The Inland Taipan is dark tan, ranging from a rich, dark hue to a brownish olive-green, depending on season. Inland taipans adapt to their environment by changing the colour of the skin during seasonal changes. They tend to become lighter during summer and darker during the winter. This seasonal color change serves the purpose of thermoregulation, allowing the snake to absorb more light in the colder months. The round-snouted head and neck are usually noticeably darker than the body (glossy black in winter, dark brown in summer), the darker colour allowing the snake to heat itself while only exposing a smaller portion of the body at the burrow entrance. The eye is of average size with a blackish brown iris and without a noticeable coloured rim around the pupil. The Inland Taipan averages approximately 1.8m (5.9ft) in length, although larger specimens can reach lengths of 2.5m (8.2ft). It is native to the arid regions of central Australia. Its range extends from the southeast part of the Northern Territory into west Queensland. The snake can also be found north of Lake Eyre and to the west of the split of the Murray River, Darling River, and Murrumbidgee River.

The Inland Taipan consumes mostly rodents, small mammals and birds. It kills with a single accurate bite, then retreats while waiting for the prey to die before returning to safely consume its meal.

The Inland Taipan's venom consists of Taipoxin and protease enzymes, the average quantity of venom delivered by this species is 44mg and the maximum dose recorded is 110mg. Its venom consists mostly of neurotoxins. As of late 2003, all positively identified inland taipan bite victims have been herpetologists handling the snakes for study, and all have been treated successfully with antivenom and no incidents have been fatal.

Brown Snake

The brown snake is approximately 1.5 metres long, and is one of Australia's more deadly creatures. They have venom which can cause death to humans relatively quickly if left untreated. Brown snakes up to 2.3 metres have been recorded in Australia. They feed on small creatures, such as mice and rats, small birds, lizards or even other snakes. These snakes are found in Eastern Australia, however they are not found in Tasmania.

tiger snake Tiger Snake

The common tiger snake is found in southern and eastern Australia. They are usually around a metre long, and have a striped marking (hence the name Tiger Snake). This is not always the case however, as the markings can change due to the seasons and the age of the snake. They can grow up to 1.5 metres in length. These are venomous snakes, and will attack if they are disturbed or threatened. Otherwise, they can live quietly. They are also often territorial, and will live in the same area for years. They are also found in suburban areas, even in the newer suburbs. The venom is lethal but death is quite rare these days, as an antivenom is readily available.

funnel-web spider femalefunnel-web spider male Funnel-Web Spider

The Sydney Funnel-Web Spider is one of the deadliest and most venomous spiders in the world. Both males (about 25mm) and females (about 30mm) are shiny black in colour with a dark purplish brown abdomen with reddish hairs. They have long spinnerets and males have spurs on the 2nd pair of legs. The Blue Mountains Funnel-Web and Northern Tree Funnel-Web Spiders are also highly venomous. These are extremely aggressive spiders especially when disturbed. They have very large and strong fangs and can bite many times injecting a powerful atraxotoxin. They are often found around homes and gardens after heavy rain, in clothing, shoes and in swimming pools. Don't be fooled as they can survive underwater for several days.

The Sydney Funnel-Web Spider lives in moist soil areas along much of the eastern coast of New South Wales and Victoria. The Blue Mountains Funnel-Web Spider is found mainly in the Blue Mountains area, as far west as the Bathurst, aound Orange and sometimes in the Sydney basin. The Northern Tree Funnel-Web Spider is found in south-eastern Queensland and northern New South Wales as far south as the Hunter Valley region.

First Aid - Click here A bite is to be taken very seriously and medical treatment should be sought immediately. Antivenom is available in most major hospitals and some ambulances.

redback spider Redback Spider

The Redback Spider is black, usually with a bright red area on its back. Their size varies a great deal with males being quite small and females growing to have a large pea sized abdomen. Unlike their name suggests, Redback Spiders do NOT always have a "red" marking. A Redback can inflict a quite painful bite which can be fatal, especially to the young and elderly and those with an allergy. It is also dangerous to small animals as in most household pets. It only takes a small amount of venom to cause serious problem as it is a neurotoxin. Symptoms include headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, raised blood pressure and in severe cases, paralysis. The area around the bite site can be very painful and sometimes there may be "sweating" at the fang marks. I was bitten as a child in central Queensland and did not have medical attention but was only a bit sick for a couple of days.

Redbacks are found Australia-wide in mostly dry and dark places. They are common around homes as lights attract their prey. They often turn up in letter boxes, under seating, under flooring and bin lids, in piles of rubbish and in empty cans. Also found in outside toilets (dunnies) especially under the seat. There is a well known song called "Redback on the Toilet Seat".

First Aid - Click here An effective antivenom was developed in 1956 and is commonly available. First aid and medical attention (ambulance) should be sought as soon as possible, if bitten.

white tail spider White Tail Spider

White Tail Spiders are found Australia-wide. Adults vary 12mm-20mm in body length and are grey to black in colour with a white section on the end of its back. They prefer cool moist locations such as garden mulch areas. In summer, it often wanders into buildings, particularly bathrooms, to escape the heat.

The bite of a white-tail spider may cause nausea and burning pain followed by swelling and itchiness around the site of the bite. In some rare but dramatic cases, a severe allergic reaction, blistering or ulceration of the skin, similar to gangrene, has been reported in the media and linked to the bite of a white-tail spider. However, this cause/effect relationship has not been proven conclusively to the satisfaction of some scientific researchers. Bacterial infection of the wound caused by Mycobacterium Ulcerans carried on the fangs of the white-tail spider, may be a contributory factor.

First Aid - Click here While serious symptoms are rare, medical attention should be sought if any adverse health effects are observed.

funnel-web spider female Wolf Spider

The bite of the Wolf Spider is poisonous but not lethal. Although non-aggressive, they bite freely if provoked and should be considered dangerous to humans. The bite may be very painful. They are found Australia-wide. The adult spider is 15mm to 30mm in body length, mottled grey to brown in colour, with a distinct "Union Jack" impression on it's back. The female carries it's young on its back. This spider is a ground dweller and lives in a silk lined burrow sometimes with a lid or leaf cover. It has a roving nocturnal lifestyle to hunt their prey and can move very rapidly when disturbed. Commonly found around the home and in garden areas.

First Aid - Click here First aid and medical attention should be sought as soon as possible, particularly as to children or the elderly.

mouse spider femalemouse spider Mouse Spider

A Mouse Spider's painful bite is known to cause severe illness, especially to young children with effests similar to a Redback Spider bite. Although normally not aggressive, the male mouse spider will bite if provoked, and should be considered dangerous to humans. It has large hard fangs which can cause a deep painful bite. They are found Australia-wide. It is a medium to large spider of up to 35mm in body length. The male Mouse Spider often has a bright red head and elongated fangs. It is often mistaken for the Funnel-Web Spider. The main differences being the Funnel-Web has much longer spinnerets (the 2 appendages on the end of the abdomen) and the male Funnel-Web has a spur on its second pair of legs. These spiders are ground dwellers with burrows of more than 1m deep. The male often wanders during the day on open ground, especially after rain, in search of females.

First Aid - Click here First aid and medical attention (ambulance) should be sought as soon as possible.

black house spider Black House Spider

The Black House Spider is found Australia-wide. Adults are about 15mm in body length and of a dark brown to black velvet textured appearance. The spider spins a lacy, messy web and prefers dry habitats in secluded locations. It is commonly found in window framing, under eaves, gutters, in brickwork, sheds, toilets and among rocks and bark. Electric lights attract their prey such as moths, flies, mosquitoes and other insects. The bite of the Black House Spider is poisonous but not lethal. Certain people bitten experience severe pain around the bite site, heavy sweating, muscular pains, vomiting, headaches and giddiness.

First Aid - Click here First aid and medical attention (ambulance) should be sought as soon as possible.

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Last modified: 16th August 2011