Monday, May 25, 2009

Striped Keelback | Amphiesma stolatum

Binomial Name: Amphiesma stolata
Common Name: Striped Keelback

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Subfamily: Natricinae
Genus: Amphiesma
Species: A. stolatum


Distinguishing Features: Small, keel (rough) scaled with two distinctive yellow stripes down back.

Average Length: 40 cm; At Birth: 12 cm; Maximum: 80 cm (female).

Description: This species is closely related to and resemble the Water Snakes. In fact, they feel quite at home in water and have long rear teeth for catching frogs. Their overall colour is light or dark brown with yellow stripes running down the body length. The lower half of their body prominently shows these stripes. The head is light brown, and the sides of the head, lip area and chin are white or yellow. Striped Keelback is the common ‘Grass Snake’ of India.

Distribution: Striped Keelbacks occur throughout India up to 2000 m in the hills.

Habitat: They dwell in rice fields, pond edges whereas thick grass and bushes are favoured.

Habits: Striped Keelbacks are diurnal and spend nights sleeping under rocks, holes or the branches of trees or bushes. During the breeding season, a female may be found attended by six or more smaller males. They are one of the gentlest snakes and rarely bite when caught for the first time. When alarmed, few spread a small ‘Hood’, revealing their beautiful, blue, red or white interscale colour.

Young: Females lay around 12 eggs. Egg-laying is observed year-round.

Food: Striped Keelback’s main diet comprises of frogs, but they also intake toads, small lizards and rodents, which they swallow alive. Insects, tadpoles, the young of toads and small-mouthed frogs are the food of Keelback’s young ones.

Status: They are very commonly found everywhere.

Remarks: Commonly found in gardens, Striped Keelbacks are often misinterpreted as ‘Baby Cobras’ and unnecessarily killed by indiscriminate gardeners and house-holders.

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