The Recently Extinct Plants and Animals Database

Wonambi naracoortensis Smith, 1976:41

Naracoorte primitive snake (proposed)



Taxonomy & Nomenclature



Conservation Status

Last record: >50,000 years ago





Biology & Ecology

This species is only known from fossil remains which indicate that a fully grown adult male would have been 5-6m long, comparable to the size of Australia's largest living snake, the scrub or amethyst python (Morelia amethistina).



Holotype: SAM P16168

For an extensive list of other material assigned to this species, see (Scalon, 2005).



For an illustration of this species constricting a wallaby, see Peter Schouten's website:



Original scientific description:

Smith, Meredith J. (1976). Small fossil vertebrates from Victoria Cave, Naracoorte, South Australia. IV. Reptiles. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 100(1): 39-51.


Other references:

Barrie, John D. (1990). Skull elements and additional remains the Pleistocene boid snake, Wonambi naracoortensis. Proceedings of the De Vis Symposium. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 28(1): 139-151.

Barrie, John D. (1997). Climatic indicators within Henschke fossil cave system, Naracoorte, South Australia. Quaternary Australasia 15(2): 45-57.

Fraser, R. A. and Wells, R. T. (2006). Palaeontological excavation and taphonomic investigation of the Pleistocene fossil deposit in Grant Hall, Victoria Fossil Cave, Naracoorte, South Australia. Alcheringa 30(S1): 147-161.

Macken, A. C. et al. (2011). Application of sedimentary and chronological analyses to refine the depositional context of a Late Pleistocene vertebrate deposit, Naracoorte, South Australia. Quat. Sci. Rev. 30(19-20): 2690-2702.

McNamara, G. C. (1990). The Wyandotte Local Fauna: A new, dated, Pleistocene vertebrate fauna from Queensland. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum (Proceedings of the De Vis symposium) 28(1): 285-297.

Merrilees, D. (1979). The prehistoric environment in Western Australia. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 62(3 or 4): 109-128.

Murray, P. F. (1991). The Pleistocene megafauna of Australia, pp. 1071-1164. In: Vickers-Rich, P., Monaghan, J. M., Baird, R. F., and Rich, T. H. Vertebrate Palaeontology of Australiasia. Lilydale, Victoria: Pioneer Design Studio.

Olivier Rieppel, Arnold G. Kluge and Hussam Zaher. (2002). Testing the phylogenetic relationships of the Pleistocene snake Wonambi naracoortensis Smith. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 22(4): 812-829.

Palci, Alessandro, Caldwell, Michael W. and Scanlon, John D. (2014). First report of a pelvic girdle in the fossil snake Wonambi naracoortensis Smith, 1976, and a revised diagnosis for the genus. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 34(4): 965-969.

Palci, Alessandro, Hutchinson, Mark N., Caldwell, Michael W., Scanlon, John D. and Lee, Michael S. Y. (2018). Palaeoecological inferences for the fossil Australian snakes Yurlunggur and Wonambi (Serpentes, Madtsoiidae). R. Soc. open sci. 5: 172012.

Scanlon, John D. (1992). A new large madtsoiid snake from the Miocene of the Northern Territory. The Beagle 9: 49-60.

Scanlon, John D. (1995). First records from Wellington Caves, New South Wales, of the extinct madtsoiid snake Wonambi naracoortensis Smith, 1976. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of NSW 115: 233-238.

Scanlon, John D. (2003). The basicranial morphology of madtsoiid snakes (Squamata, Ophidia) and the earliest Alethinophidia (Serpentes). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 23(4): 971–976.

Scanlon, John D. (2005). Cranial morphology of the Plio-Pleistocene giant madtsoiid snake Wonambi naracoortensis. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 50(1):139-180.

Scanlon, John D. and Lee, M. Y. (2000). The Pleistocene serpent Wonambi and the early evolution of snakes. Nature 403: 416-20.

Smith, M. J. (1983). A giant python from southern Australia, Wonambi naracoortensis. In: S. Quirk and M. Archer (eds.), Prehistoric Animals of Australia, pp. 40. Australian Museum, Sydney.

Smith, M. J. (1985). Wonambi naracoortensis Smith, 1976 The Giant Australian Python. In: P.V. Rich, G.F. Van Tets, and F. Knight (eds.), Kadimakara—Extinct Vertebrates of Australia, pp. 156–159. Pioneer Design Studio, Melbourne

Wells, Rod T., Moriarty, K. and Williams, D. L. G. (1984). The fossil vertebrate deposits of Victoria Fossil Cave Naracoorte: an introduction to the geology and fauna. The Australian Zoologist 21(4): 305-333.


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