Ask an ex­pert

Dr Ronelle Wel­ton at the Univer­sity of Mel­bourne’s Aus­tralian Venom Re­search Unit

Australian Geographic - - Geobuzz -

Q

Why does Aus­tralia have so many deadly an­i­mals?

A

Aus­tralia has an in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing the epi­cen­tre of all things ven­omous and bitey (see page 26). There are var­i­ous the­o­ries as to why. Some sug­gest that strong venom in­creases the chance of get­ting a meal while min­imis­ing en­ergy con­sump­tion in Aus­tralia’s harsh en­vi­ron­ments; oth­ers say it’s purely co­in­ci­dence or they ques­tion whether it’s in­stead a prob­lem with per­cep­tion, and say we don’t re­ally have an un­usual abun­dance of ven­omous crea­tures. In­juries and deaths caused by snakes and jel­ly­fish are of­ten sen­sa­tion­alised in the media, but a re­cent re­view found that there are very few deaths from ‘deadly’ Aus­tralian an­i­mals.This is con­fus­ing, but Aus­tralia also has one of the best health­care sys­tems – and this may also be a con­tribut­ing fac­tor to the low num­bers of deaths. In short, there is no clear an­swer at this time.

Box jel­ly­fish.

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