Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Olive Keelback Watersnake | Atretium schistosum

Labels: Split Keelback, Olive Keelback Snake

Binomial name: Atretium schistosum
Common Name: Olive Keelback Watersnake

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Atretium
Species: A. schistosum


Distinguishing Features: Small to medium-sized; keeled, shiny scales; dorsal half of the body is olive-green; underside yellow.

Average Length: 45 cm; At Birth: 10 cm; Maximum: 1 m.

Description: It is a thin headed snake. The overall colour is rich olive-green, occasionally bordered with a red streak along each side of the body. The underside is yellow or orange. The females are usually larger than the males. They resemble Enhydris, another common water-snake; Enhydris is a smooth water-snake and it prefers river and estuarine. Olive Keelback Watersnakes are abundant in Kerala, Orissa and west-Bengal.

Distribution: These are common in peninsular India and absent in the North. They are found up to 1,000 m above sea level.

Habitat: They find habitation in still waters of tanks and ponds, where they occupy crab and other holes.

Habits: Olive Keelback Watersnakes seem to be diurnal, but they are seen moving around at night as well. When handled they rarely bite.

Young: 12-30 eggs are laid from December through March.

Food: Mostly the aquatic and marine snakes catch the tadpoles, fish and frogs with a characteristic side-strike. These snakes swim past their prey and abruptly snap their head to the side. It is also found that Olive Keelbacks eat mosquito larvae.

Status: Though sometimes called ‘water cobra’, people are tolerant towards this small, well camouflaged snake. Consequently, they are relatively common.

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