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any of three species of highly venomous snakes (family Elapidae) found from Australia to the southern edge of New Guinea. Taipans range in colour from beige to gray and pale brown to dark brown. Some taipans also experience seasonal colour changes. The coastal taipan (O. scutellatus) is the largest Australian elapid. Its maximum length is 2.9 metres (9.5 feet); however, most range between 1.8 and 2.4 metres (6 and 8 feet) in length. The fierce snake or inland taipan (O. microlepidotus) is smaller and can grow up to 1.7 metres (5.5 feet) in length. A third species, O. temporalis, was discovered in the central mountain ranges of Western Australia in 2006; its life history and habits await more detailed study