Typical Snakes Part # 1

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1 Advanced Snakes & Reptiles 1 Module # 4 Component # 5 Family Colubridae This is the most represented family in the course area and has the more commonly encountered species. All of these snakes only have one lung and the majority do not have any fangs and are constrictors. There are some species with fangs, but most have no significant effect on humans, with one very important exception. The head scales are usually typical as previously shown. The typical snakes being such a large group has been split into three Components. This division doesn t represent any specific taxonomic grouping. Species endemic to the Lowveld include: Component # 1 Component # 2 Component # 3 Cross-marked Sand Snake Pygmy Sand Snake Fork-Marked Sand Snake Jalla's Sand Snake Stripe-Bellied Sand Snake Striped Skaapsteker Rhombic Skaapsteker Olive Grass Snake Short-Snouted Grass Snake Spotted Bush Snake Brown Water Snake Floodplain Water Snake Dusky-Bellied Water Snake Green Water Snake Eastern Green Snake Variegated Wolf Snake Cape Wolf Snake Swazi Rock Snake Marbled Tree Snake Aurora House Snake Brown House Snake Olive House Snake Spotted House Snake Yellow-Bellied House Snake Rhombic Egg Eater Southern Brown Egg Eater Mole Snake Cape File Snake Black File Snake Common Tiger Snake Herald Snake Rufous Beaked Snake Eastern Bark Snake Common Slug Eater Boomslang Twig Snake

2 Advanced Snakes & Reptiles 2 Cross-marked Sand Snake Psammophis crucifer Characteristics: Usually striped in shades of brown Typical flight & freeze behaviour Cross to the neck region Large round eye & pupil Fast moving alert species Other Names: Crossed Whip Snake, Montane Grass Snake, Kruismerksweepslang, Kruismerksandslang Habitat: They inhabit varied habitats from mountains in Mpumulanga through the Highveld and down into sandy scrub and to a more limited extent into the Fynbos. Reproduction: Oviparous, having up to 5 eggs

3 Advanced Snakes & Reptiles 3 Description: As the name suggests there is a light cross like pattern on the head. The body is normally silver to olive grey with a broad vertebral stripe. There is another stripe of similar colour on the lower part of the side. Ventral scales are usually yellow or yellowish orange, occasionally with greyish streaks. Specimens have been recorded having olive coloured bodies with cream coloured ventral scales. As with the entire family, it is a fast moving predominantly terrestrial species. When disturbed it moves off rapidly to take shelter under anything it can find. It rarely attempts to bite and is rarely seen or captured as it has a very nervous temperament. They mainly eat lizards and geckos. Some of their natural predators are other snakes and the African or Edible Bullfrog (Pyxicephalus adspersus). Distribution: Distribution of the Cross-marked Sand Snake Note on our Distribution Maps: The general map is of Southern Africa The green shaded area is the Highveld and Lowveld of South Africa The red lined area depicts the distribution of the species

4 Advanced Snakes & Reptiles 4 Pygmy Sand Snake Psammophis angolensis Characteristics: Striped, very slender body Large round eye and pupil Flight & Freeze behaviour Barring to neck region Other Names: Dwarf Sand Snake, Dwarf Whip Snake, Dwergsweepslang, Dwergsandslang Habitat: Prefers savanna areas from the bushveld / thornveld down to the coastal plains. Reproduction Oviparous, having up to 5 eggs Description: They are typical of this group of species in their means of defence by dart and stop. They seldom attempt to bite when captured, but are very rarely encountered, normally moving away before being spotted. They feed mainly on lizards and frogs. They normally remain within the cover of veld grass or under natural debris such as logs or fallen trunks. The head is dark brown with 3 bars behind the head in the neck region. The rest of the body is a yellowish brown to grey with a broad dark spinal stripe. On the sides are two thin dark stripes. The labials and ventral scales are yellowish white or white, but may also be caramel in colour.

5 Advanced Snakes & Reptiles 5 Distribution: Distribution of Pygmy Sand Snake

6 Advanced Snakes & Reptiles 6 Fork-marked Sand Snake Psammophis trinasalis Characteristics: Flight and freeze when encountered - Quick species Stripes to body in browns Round pupil Sharpish shaped head Other Names: Kalaharisandslang, Kalahari Sand Snake Habitat: Prefer sandy or stony areas within bushveld or savanna. Reproduction: Oviparous, having up to 8 eggs

7 Advanced Snakes & Reptiles 7 Description: These snakes are extremely agile and fast moving and have very slender bodies and head. The head has two pale stripes that sometimes join to form the fork shape of their common name. The rest of the body is brown, olive brown or olive with three yellowish stripes that run the length of the body. The one strip runs along the spine while the other two run just off the spine on the sides. The ventral scales are usually white to yellow white. Rarely there may be a greyish band down the middle of the scales. This species also hunts for its prey that is normally lizards or rodents. Occasionally other snakes may be taken. They rely on the typical defence mechanism of fast movement into bushes and then freezing to blend in with the environment. Distribution: Distribution of the Fork-marked Sand Snake

8 Advanced Snakes & Reptiles 8 Jalla's Sand Snake Psammophis jallae Characteristics: Very slender bodied snake Fast moving species - fight and freeze defense tactic Striped from snout to tail in brown and beige Other Names: Jalla se sandslang Habitat: Prefer sandy savanna Reproduction: Oviparous Description: It is a rarely encountered species as it normally moves away long before sighted. They have the typical slender sand snake build and a striped body. The body brown to dark brown with 2 thin yellowish stripes either side of the spine. The belly is cream, normally with a yellow stripe down the middle. The upper labials are normally creamy to yellowish white. They predominantly feed on lizards.

9 Advanced Snakes & Reptiles 9 Distribution: Distribution of Jalla's Sand Snake

10 Advanced Snakes & Reptiles 10 Western Stripe-bellied Sand Snake Psammophis subtaeniatus Characteristics: Yellow band to ventral scales flanked by white Brown dorsal stripe Brown to dark brown vertebral stripe on beige background. Maybe blotched around head area Typical flight and freeze behaviour Other Names: Striped-bellied Sand Snake, Westelike gestreepte sandslang Habitat: Prefers arid sandy areas within bushveld / thornveld or savanna. Reproduction: Oviparous, having up to 10 eggs

11 Advanced Snakes & Reptiles 11 Description: They are very striking and beautiful snakes. They are normally grey brown to olive brown in colour. There are two light dorsolateral lines that along the majority of the body. These lines start off as spots or blotch near to the head and then join to form a stripe. The centre of the ventral scales is yellow which are lined in a thin black stripe. The sides of the ventral scales are white which marginally extend up the side. Towards the neck the white extends higher up and the lower labials are also white. Often a white line will extend from the eye to the nostril. It is a fairly common species that will usually be spotted while basking in a bush. It is an extremely fast species that will move into a bush and freeze when disturbed. In doing this often the predator will loose sight of it. This species will often bite when captured unlike the aforementioned species, and also wriggle furiously in order to escape. As with this group of snakes it prefers lizards, but will also take frogs, rodents or young birds. Distribution: Distribution of the Western Stripe-bellied Sand Snake

12 Advanced Snakes & Reptiles 12 Striped Skaapsteker Psammophylax tritaeniatus Characteristics: Three dark stripes on beige body colour Stripes from tip of head down to tail White to cream ventral scales Slender build with a slightly distinct head from body Other Names: Gestreepte Skaapsteker Habitat: They prefer open grassland and vleis within their distribution. Reproduction: Oviparous, having up to 18 eggs

13 Advanced Snakes & Reptiles 13 Description: It is fairly similar to the Rhombic Skaapsteker. It has a light olive brown to grey colouration with three darker stripes that extend the full length of the body. These stripes are usually brown, edged in black and the two side stripes extend through the eye. The vertebral or spinal strip may have a thin yellowish to yellow brown stripe edged to either side in a thin brown stripe. The ventral scales are whiter than the Rhombic Skaapsteker as well as the upper labials are whitish. There may be a lime to yellowish strip in the middle of the belly or ventral scales. The sub-caudals are paired. It is a relatively common species, but is not normally seen. They move quickly from danger, but if spotted they will crawl rapidly and stop. By doing this they hope the predator will loose track of them and their camouflage takes effect. When first captured they do not often bite, but normally wriggle to break free. The common name is misleading with no definite origin, but the species is totally incapable of killing sheep. Their diet consists mainly of fledgling birds and rodents, while young prefer lizards and frogs. Distribution: Distribution of the Striped Skaapsteker

14 Advanced Snakes & Reptiles 14 Rhombic Skaapsteker Psammophylax rhombeatus Characteristics: Spots to neck region and upper third of body, Further south in distribution the more distinct the spots over more of the body length. Typical Flight & Freeze behaviour Most of body dark brown with light ventral and dorsal stripes Other Names: Spotted Skaapsteker, Gevlekte Skaapsteker Habitat: They prefer open grassland within their distribution, which ranges from Coastal Plains to mountains Reproduction: Oviparous, having up to 30 eggs, normally around 15 and the female may stay with the eggs.

15 Advanced Snakes & Reptiles 15 Description: The ventral scales are usually a lighter yellow with occasional darker blotches. The top of the body has 3 brownish stripes that have dark edges that are on a light olive to yellow brown background. The stripes towards the head may form a zigzag pattern or spots. The sub-caudals are paired As with the previous species, it is relatively common, but is not normally seen. They share the same anti-predator behaviour by moving quickly from danger, but if spotted they will crawl rapidly and stop. By doing this they hope the predator will loose track of them and their camouflage takes effect. When first captured they do not often bite, but normally wriggle to break free. The common name is again misleading with no definite origin, but the species is also totally incapable of killing sheep. Their diet consists mainly of lizards but will also take rodents, nestling birds or frogs. Distribution: Distribution of the Rhombic Skaapsteker

16 Advanced Snakes & Reptiles 16 Olive Grass Snake Psammophis mossambicus Characteristics: Light coloured with dark spots to each upper ladial Round Pupil - Diurnal Some specimens have dark stripes along body Often moves away fast and then freezes. Other Names: Olive Whip Snake, Olyfsweepslang, Olyfgrasslang Habitat: Grasslands and open savanna from coastal plains up to the Highveld, bushveld and thornveld, but usually near to water. Reproduction: Oviparous, having up to 30 eggs

17 Advanced Snakes & Reptiles 17 Description: Typical of the group they are fast moving snakes making identification very difficult. When cornered they will raise the head well off the ground but not spreading a hood. If captured they wriggle furiously to escape and will readily bite. They are a terrestrial species do bask in bushes. They mainly eat lizards, frogs, rodents, small birds and snakes. They have been known to eat young Puff Adders and even juvenile Black Mambas. It is an olive brown colour with black spots to the underside of the neck and chin. Some specimens have dark edging to the scales that give the snake a thinly striped appearance. The labials are usually cream with some black dots and this is the same as the ventral scales. Distribution: Distribution of the Olive Grass Snake

18 Advanced Snakes & Reptiles 18 Short-snouted Grass Snake Psammophis brevitoris Characteristics: Light dashed ventral stripe Speckling around neck Round pupil Dark vertebral band either side of vertebral stripe Often moves away quickly then freezes Other Names: Short-snouted Whip Snake, Kortsnoetsweepslang, Kortsnoetgrasslang Habitat: Grasslands and open savanna from coastal plains up to the Highveld, bushveld and thornveld. Reproduction: Oviparous, having up to 15 eggs

19 Advanced Snakes & Reptiles 19 Description: They have a brown to olive brown broad spinal / vertebral band that has a dashed whitish line down the middle. To both side of the band is a greyish thin stripe and the sides are normally brown to reddish brown. A thin dashed black line is present between the vertebral stripe and thin greyish stripe. The ventral scales are usually white to yellowish white and in some specimens there is a dotted black line to the outer edge of the scales. Typical with the group they are fast moving snakes making identification very difficult. If captured they wriggle furiously to escape and will often bite. They are a terrestrial species do bask in bushes. They mainly eat lizards & frogs as well as snakes. They will take rodents and small birds. Distribution: Distribution of the Short-snouted Grass Snake

20 Advanced Snakes & Reptiles 20 Spotted Bush Snake Psammophis crucifer Characteristics: Green with black blotches to body (normally upper third to half) Slender fast moving species Often seen in trees Blue with Black tip tongue Distinct head Other Names: Variegated Bush Snake, Gespikkelde bosslang Habitat: Often found in treed areas, near to water / rivers or in rocky regions Reproduction: Oviparous, having up to 12 eggs Description: They are sometime misidentified with the Boomslang. The more plain green to olive green colouration and black spots or bars along the back for the first half or third of the body easily tells them apart. The eye is also not as large as the Boomslang. Their behaviour when hassled is similar in that they inflate their neck region. When captured they readily bite, but will normally move off before being spotted. The ventral scales of this species are white to yellow white and their scales are strongly keeled. They feed on lizards but will also take frogs.

21 Advanced Snakes & Reptiles 21 Distribution: Distribution of the Spotted Bush Snake

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