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Toxicon. 2006 Dec 1;48(7):919-30. Epub 2006 Jul 14.

The good, the bad and the ugly: Australian snake taxonomists and a history of the taxonomy of Australia's venomous snakes.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, Australian Venom Research Unit, School of Medicine, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic 3010 [corrected] Australia.

Erratum in

  • Toxicon. 2007 Apr;49(5):740.


The Australian snake fauna is unique in harbouring more venomous species than non-venomous ones. Although taxonomic research on the elapid snakes of Australia goes back to the late 18th century, in stark contrast to other developed regions of the world (e.g. the continental USA), Australian snake taxonomy is very much in its infancy. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, the taxonomy of Australian snakes has been extraordinarily controversial, and many of the taxonomists involved correspondingly colourful. In this review, we explore the sometimes-tortured history of the taxonomic exploration of the venomous snake fauna of Australia, looking at some of the more colourful and notable contributors and highlighting systematic pitfalls that persist even today.

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