Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Checkered Keelback Watersnake | Xenochropis piscator

Labels: Checkered water-snake, Pani ka samp

Binomial Name: Xenochropis piscator
Common Name: Checkered Keelback Watersnake

Scientific classification
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Xenochropis
Species: X. piscator


Distinguishing Features: Medium-sized; keeled, glossy scales; prominent black eye-streaks and characteristic checkered pattern.

Average Length: 60 cm; At Birth: 12.5 cm; Maximum: 1.75 m (female).

Description: These snakes show quite variations in colour, ranging from black with light markings to bright yellow with the characteristic black and white checkered pattern. One or two eye-streaks are distinct and the head is obtusely pointed discrete from the neck. Overall the snake is heavy-bodied and the scales are strongly keeled and glossy. The underside is usually shiny and white. Checkered Keelback Watersnake is the common water snake of India, plentiful, adaptable and mostly found everywhere, in and near freshwater.

Distribution: Checkered Keelback Watersnakes are found throughout India, up to 3,000 m in the Himalayas. The darker forms are common in the streams of the higher hills in the Ghats and Himalayas. But their appearances and habits are similar.

Habitat: They usually live in lakes, ponds, wells, rivers, streams and flooded rice fields.

Habits: Checkered Keelbacks are lively during day and night, and hunt along the edges of ponds and rice fields, spending much time on land after dark. They flatten their head; extend the ribs of the neck and rear up, once excited. Because of this act, many mistake them for Cobras. They bite readily when stepped on or caught, but soon become docile if handled properly.

Young: The females normally lay around 20-40 eggs in a rat tunnel, termite mound or hole in a well, wall or tank bund. She incubates and protects the eggs until they hatch 60-70 days later.

Food: Young ones feed on tadpoles and water insects. As they grow larger, they intake fish, frogs and sometimes rodents and birds. They generally swallow their prey alive. Their longfrog teeth’ in the back of the upper jaw hold and puncture frogs.

Status: Checkered Keelback Watersnake’s skins are well-known items in the skin trade. Though being the most common snake in India, several local populations have been wiped out by intensive all-season collection.

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