The red-bellied black snake is a large snake with a glossy black body covered with smooth scales. On the underside the lateral scales and the outer edge of the ventral scales are red or pink leading to the red-bellied name. The underside is a pale-pink or cream except below the tail where it is black. The snout is brownish.
Their eye includes a dark iris with a round pupil.
Males grow slightly larger than females. An average adult will measure 1.8m (5.9ft) long.
Frogs are a major component of their diet and their habitat is often near a watercourse. They will forage underwater. Red-bellied black snakes can remain submerged for up to 23 minutes.
Due to their taste for frogs they often eat the introduced cane toad which is fatal for the red-bellied black snake.
Australia is the native home of the red-bellied black snake. Here they can be found down the east coast from Queensland through New South Wales and Victoria and across to South Australia. They stick to the coastline with the range not extending far inland.
They can make their home in a wide-range of habitats provided they are close to a water source such as a stream, swamp or lagoon. Red-bellied black snakes have also been reported in rainforests, eucalypt forests and heath.
With the expansion of human habitations they may be found in backyards.
Red-bellied black snakes will shelter within logs, mammal burrows and under rocks.
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Mating takes place in spring and mid-summer. During mating season males are highly mobile as they search for their mate. While looking for females they may engage in combat with other males to obtain mating rights. This combat sees the two snakes raise up their forebodies and then attempt to push the opponents body to the ground.
During mating the male will hold the female down using his head and wrap around her.
Prior to giving birth females in some areas gather in small groups. These females share a burrow and bask together. The reason these groups form are not known but it may be to provide protection against predators.
Following a successful mating the female will give birth to an average of five to nineteen young from October to March. In exceptional circumstances they may have up to 40 young. The young are born live. During the birth they are wrapped in a thin, transparent membrane which they wriggle out of to free themselves.
It is believed that the females develop the young internally rather than laying eggs to provide greater control over the temperature at which incubation takes place in cooler climates.
At birth the young measure 22cm (8.7in) long.
Sexual maturity occurs between 2 and 3 years old.
Red-bellied black snakes are active by day. If it is warm they will be active in to the evening. They will emerge by day to bask in the sun which is used to regulate their body temperature. Basking occurs on rocks and timber.
During winter they enter a period of inactivity.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of adult red-bellied black snakes are limited to humans. Invasive species such as the feral cat will prey on red-bellied black snakes.
Juvenile snakes are preyed upon by birds of prey, larger snakes, frogs and invertebrates such as spiders.
When threatened the red-bellied black snake will carry out a bluffing display in which they flatten their neck and create a number of deep, hissing noises.
They are equipped with a potent venom which is used for their defense.
The largest threat to their survival is invasive cane toads in their environment. They can become entirely absent from areas where this species is present.
They are also known as the common black snake.
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By Peter Firminger, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7929354
By Matt from Melbourne, Australia – Red-bellied Black Snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus)Uploaded by SunOfErat, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27543162
By Donald Hobern from Copenhagen, Denmark – Pseudechis porphyriacus, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63746444
Swanson, S. and Parish, S., 2011. Field Guide To Australian Reptiles. 2nd ed. New South Wales: Pascal Press.
Queensland Museum. 2020. Red-Bellied Black Snake. [online] Available at: <https://www.qm.qld.gov.au/Find+out+about/Animals+of+Queensland/Reptiles/Snakes/Common+and+dangerous+species/Red-bellied+Black+Snake> [Accessed 3 October 2020].
Australian Reptile Park – Wildlife Park Sydney & Animal Encounters Australia. 2020. Red Bellied Black Snake Habitat, Diet & Reproduction. [online] Available at: <https://reptilepark.com.au/animals/reptiles/snakes/venomous/red-bellied-black-snake/> [Accessed 3 October 2020].
Environment | Department of Environment and Science. 2020. Snakes Of South-East Queensland. [online] Available at: <https://environment.des.qld.gov.au/wildlife/animals/living-with/snakes/near-you/south-east-qld> [Accessed 3 October 2020].
Shea, G., Cogger, H. & Greenlees, M. 2018. Pseudechis porphyriacus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T42493274A42493282. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-1.RLTS.T42493274A42493282.en. Downloaded on 03 October 2020.
The Australian Museum. 2020. Red-Bellied Black Snake. [online] Available at: <https://australian.museum/learn/animals/reptiles/red-bellied-black-snake/> [Accessed 3 October 2020].
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