BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 339

BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 339


IELTS Academic Reading Test



The Taipan

A. Taipans have the unenviable reputation of being Australia’s most deadly snakes. There are three types of taipan: the inland taipan, the coastal taipan and the central ranges taipan. The longest venomous snake in Australia, the coastal taipan reaches an average length of 2.5 metres, with a maximum length of 3.35 metres. The head of a coastal taipan is large, rectangular-shaped and distinct from its narrow neck. The eye is a reddish colour. Adult coastal taipans have a uniformly light or dark-brown colouration above with a creamy-yellow belly that usually has reddish or pink spots towards the front.

The inland taipan is olive-coloured in the summer and dark brown in winter, with dark, smooth scales arranged in diagonal rows. The colour change is an adaptation that allows it to absorb more heat in winter and less heat in summer. The central ranges taipan is the third type of taipan, but it was only discovered in 2007. Dr Mark Hutchinson, reptile and amphibian curator at the South Australian Museum, caught an immature female taipan while it was crossing a dirt track.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

He said the reptile was about one metre long, but, because it was one of the most venomous snakes in the world, he did not inspect the creature on site. It was not until two weeks later that the snake was studied and the new species was confirmed. It is similar in size and colouring to the western brown snake, with which it is often confused. The different taipans have not been assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature; however, they are considered as ‘Near Threatened’ or ‘Rare’ in Queensland. They are protected by law and a special permit is required to capture them, as well as a separate special license to own them.

B. Although all three types of taipan are extremely venomous, they do not kill many people. For example, in spite of the toxicity of its venom, there has been no single fatality recorded from the bite of an inland taipan. On average, only one bite is recorded per year and sometimes none at all. This is because inland taipans live far away from people and are usually only active in the early morning.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Also, inland taipans are shy snakes and when encountered by humans, they flee and hide rather than fight. The coastal taipan is more of a naturally hostile snake, although if disturbed, it will generally retreat. Humans are rarely bitten but, if a taipan is cornered or attacked, it will viciously defend itself, striking repeatedly with speed and accuracy. Coastal taipans are found around human habitations, so they are commonly encountered by people in sheds, farm buildings and waste heaps.

C. The taipan is particularly dangerous to humans, because it is a mammal specialist, feeding almost exclusively on mammals, which is quite uncommon. As a result of this specialism, the taipan’s venom has evolved to be extremely lethal for all mammals, including humans. The snake’s venom is so potent because it combines two types of toxic components that start affecting the human body very soon after entering the person’s system.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

The poison has a conglomerate of neurotoxins and haemotoxins, which attack the body on multiple levels. Neurotoxins affect a person’s ability to control his or her body. Within an hour of being bitten, a person will start experiencing symptoms such as slurred speech, seizures, difficulty breathing or an inability to control his or her limbs. Haemotoxins affect the blood’s ability to clot, leading to internal bleeding and organ damage.

D. Like other snakes, the taipan is an ambush predator that silently stalks its prey and then strikes when the time is right. Unlike other venomous snakes, though, the taipan doesn’t just deliver a single bite and then wait for the animal to die from the venom. Rather, the inland taipan delivers up to eight bites in a single strike, and then holds its prey. Now this may seem dangerous, since prey usually fight back, but not for the inland taipan.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

The venom is so potent that the prey has no chance to put up a fight and the inland taipan swallows it whole without a fuss. Although the different taipans are all fearsome predators, they do have predators of their own. Newly-hatched and immature taipans have a number of natural enemies, including various birds of prey and goannas. Adult taipans are eaten by the king brown snake, which is immune to its venom, and the perentie, the fourth largest living lizard which can grow over 8 feet long. Humans still routinely kill coastal taipans on sight, as they are the ones who can live near human habitations.

E. Taipans are among the oviparous snakes, which means they lays egg, usually in burrows abandoned by mammals or in deep, wide cracks in the soil. They can lay as many as 20 eggs or as few as 11, the average being 16. They can produce two clutches of eggs in a year, especially if there is a lot of food. The eggs hatch after 9 to 11 weeks and the newly hatched snakes are around 18 inches long.

They do not receive any parental care, but already possess a deadly dose of venom with which to hunt and defend themselves. Taipans hatched in captivity grow incredibly fast, and can reach over a metre in their first year. Growth rates for taipans not in captivity are not known; however, the lack of small specimens in museum collections may suggest that the species grows rapidly under natural conditions as well.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Questions 1 – 5

The text on the previous pages has 5 paragraphs A – E. Choose the correct heading for each paragraph from the list of headings below. Write the correct number (i – viii) in boxes 1 – 5 on your answer sheet.

i. Specially Adapted

ii. Government Protection for All Species

iii. A New Addition to a Familiar Pairing

iv. Eating and Being Eaten

v. Flee not Fight, but not Always

vi. Habitat Degradation For the Coastal Taipan

vii. Propagation and Proliferation

viii. Genetic Diversification Protected by Zoo Programs

IELTS Academic Reading Test

1. Paragraph A

2. Paragraph B

3. Paragraph C

4. Paragraph D

5. Paragraph E

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Questions 6 – 9

Look at the information regarding different taipans (questions 6 – 9) and match them to the appropriate taipan (A – D). Write your answers in boxes 6 – 9 on your answer sheet.

Information Regarding Different Taipans

6. This snake adapts its colour according to the seasons.

7. It is illegal to kill this snake.

8. This snake is more aggressive.

9. This snake is often mistakenly identified as a different snake.


A. The Coastal Taipan

B. The Inland Taipan

C. The Central Ranges Taipan

D. All Three Taipan Species

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Questions 10 – 13

Do the following statements agree with the information given in the text? In boxes 10 – 13 on your answer sheet write:

TRUE – if the statement agrees with the information

FALSE – if the statement contradicts the information

NOT GIVEN – if there is no information on this

10. The central ranges taipan was immediately identified as a new species on discovery.

11. The taipan’s highly toxic venom does not protect it from being eaten by other snakes.

12. Ancestors of taipans can be found on the relatively nearby Malay archipelago.

13. Wild taipans are known to grow rapidly after birth.

IELTS Academic Reading Test


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BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 339

IELTS Academic Reading Test


1. iii

2. v

3. i

4. iv

5. vii

6. B

7. D

8. A

9. C


11. TRUE



IELTS Academic Reading Test

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