AskDefine | Define taipan

Dictionary Definition

taipan n : large highly venomous snake of northeastern Australia [syn: Oxyuranus scutellatus]

User Contributed Dictionary



From the name of the Thaypan tribe of Aboriginal people of central Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, Australia.


  1. any of a venomous species of snake, of the family Elapidae, found in Australia and New Guinea
  2. a foreign businessman in China; a tycoon

Derived terms

Extensive Definition

A taipan is a large, fast, highly venomous Australasian snake. One species, the inland taipan, has the most toxic venom of any land species worldwide, although it is not the most deadly. The taipan was named by Donald Thompson after the word used by the Wik-Mungkan Aboriginal people of central Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, Australia.
There are three known species: the coastal taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus), the less common inland taipan (also known as the fierce snake and small-scaled snake) (Oxyuranus microlepidotus) and a recently discovered third species, the Central Ranges taipan (Oxyuranus temporalis). The coastal taipan has two subspecies: the coastal taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus scutellatus) and the Papuan taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus canni), found on southern coast of Papua New Guinea. Their diet consists primarily of small mammals, especially rats and bandicoots.


Taipans can grow 6½ to 12 feet long (2 to 3.6 metres). The coastal taipan is usually pale to dark brown in colour, fading to a lateral cream, although juveniles are lighter in colour. The Papuan taipan is black or purplish-gray, with a copper-coloured stripe on its back. They are often found in sugar fields due to an abundance of rats - their main food source. They feed upon these two or three times a week.
In several aspects of morphology, ecology and behaviour, the common taipan is strongly convergent with an African elapid, Dendroaspis polylepis (the black mamba).


The Central Ranges taipan was ranked fifth in the top species of 2008 by the International Institute for Species Exploration


taipan in Czech: Taipan
taipan in German: Taipane
taipan in Spanish: Oxyurans scutellatus
taipan in French: Oxyuranus
taipan in Italian: Oxyuranus
taipan in Lithuanian: Taipanai
taipan in Dutch: Oxyuranus
taipan in Norwegian: Taipaner
taipan in Portuguese: Taipan
taipan in Russian: Тайпаны
taipan in Finnish: Taipaanit
taipan in Swedish: Taipan
taipan in Turkish: Taipan
taipan in Chinese: 太攀蛇属
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