Mysterious “Snake" Eggs Recovered From Australian School Sandpit Causes Confusion

The eastern brown snake is the second-most venomous terrestrial snake in the world. Sylvie Lebchek/Shutterstock

Those living in Australia tend to have a more relaxed approach towards snakes, spiders, and creepy crawlies. But finding 43 unidentified reptile eggs in a sandpit at a school might even be too much for those down under. This discovery was made worse when some suggested the eggs belonged to the highly venomous eastern brown snake.

FAWNA, a volunteer wildlife group, were called to the school in Laurieton, about 350 kilometers (217 miles) north of Sydney, after a student playing in the sand dug up 12 reptile eggs. After further excavations, the wildlife group managed to recover a total of 43 eggs buried in the sand, which they subsequently removed.

So are the eggs from a deadly snake or something far more ordinary?

Initial reports said the eggs likely belonged to the eastern brown snake (Pseudonaja textilis). The snake can be found along the eastern coast of Australia, from the far north of Queensland, through Brisbane, Sydney, and even Adelaide. It is also the second-most venomous terrestrial snake known, with the venom causing diarrhea, paralysis, and cardiac failure. Fortunately, the death rate from untreated bites is actually relatively low at 10 to 20 percent.

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Yet following publication of the egg images, social media began to cast doubt on the assertion they belonged to such a deadly critter, with some pointing out that it is unlikely a snake – famously bereft of any limbs – could dig down into the sand in order to bury them.

Instead, some are now suggesting that the eggs were laid by the far more benign Australian water dragon. This common lizard is well known for the female’s habit of digging burrows into soft or sandy soil, typically in patches exposed to the sun in order to keep the eggs warm. Not unlike a sandpit, say.  

The likely culprit, an Australian water dragon. Gareth Locke/Shutterstock

Initially, snake experts did little to quell the confusion surrounding the discovery. A wildlife group even posted an update that “when we found the eggs we carefully checked the eggs over and found that they contained what appeared to be snake hatchlings. We were told was there were a couple of sightings of large brown snakes behind the area and all we could surmise is that they were brown snake eggs.”

Most experts, however, now seem to be of the opinion that if they were indeed found buried in the sand, they most likely belong to a water dragon.

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