Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Perrotet’s Shieldtail Snake | Plectrurus perroteti


Binomial name: Plectrurus perroteti
Common name: Perrotet’s Shieldtail Snake

Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Uropeltidae
Genus: Plectrurus
Species: P. perroteti


Distinguishing Features: Small; pointed head and blunt tail; smooth, glossy scales; generally brightly marked underside.

Average Length: Up to 44 cm; diameter 11 mm.

Description: Perrotet’s Shieldtail is brown; each scale has a reddish or yellowish centre. The underside of the tail is orange and the young usually have a yellow line on the top of the tail. All uropeltids have powerful, piercing heads and tiny eyes. The tail is short and blunt and ends in two small points. The bright iridescence of these snakes is best seen when the snake is put in sunlight, but is actually due to specializations of the scales that keep the dirt from adhering to it. Shieldtails are often mistaken for earthworms; however, unlike earthworms, almost all species have brightly marked undersides. Perrotet’s Shieldtail is one of the 43 shieldtails or uropeltids of the hills of South and Central India and Sri Lanka.

Distribution: Distributed throughout Western Ghats, South of Goa. According to the M.A. Smith, this species is common in the Nilgiris and Anaimalais. Other species are found at their particular elevation and habitat preferences throughout the Western Ghats. The distribution of these snakes needs significant reconsideration.

Habitat: Uropeltids are forest snakes, occupying tunnel systems generally in the leaves, humus, rocks and logs of most forests, 10-30 cm below the surface of the soil. At drier times of the year they may burrow much deeper.

Habits: Being burrowers, uropeltids spend most of their time underground. They may move to the surface at night and they are found to be active when it rains. These snakes do not bite when handled.

Young: Shieldtails produce 3-5 living young ones.

Food: They apparently feed on earthworms and insect larva.

Status: With the ever-increasing devastation of the hill forests the Shieldtails and countless other smaller, little-known forest creatures are likely to become extinct before we get into deeper study on their biology.

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