Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Rat Snake | Ptyas mucosus

Labels: Oriental Rat-snake, Dhaman

Binomial name: Ptyas mucosus
Common name: Rat Snake

Scientific classification
















P. mucosus


Distinguishing Features: Large sized, sleek; shiny scales; dorsal row keeled; thin neck and large eyes.

Average Length: 2 m; At Birth: 32 cm; Maximum: 3.5 m (male).

Description: Rat Snakes are common and widely distributed. They usually show a lot of variation in colour, from light-yellow to jet-black and many shades of green, olive or brown in between. Their body is evenly coloured, but the skin bears inter-scale markings which show up when they puffs itself in defence. Their underside usually bears cross bars, which is quite prominent in specimens from Northern India. When observed concisely, Rat Snakes resemble Cobras, but they are in fact longer and thinner with pointed rather than round heads and striking eyes.

Distribution: They are found throughout India, including the Andaman and Nicobars and 4,000 m above sea level.

Habitat: Termite mounds and rat holes are the favourite places for Rat Snakes. Generally they are versatile snakes and can adapt themselves to almost every environment. Their most wanted hunting grounds include high grass, rice fields and storage places.

Habits: Being phenomenal rat eaters, Rat Snakes naturally occur more where rats dwell. And since rats are abundant where humans are, these snakes are plentifully found. They are diurnal and like other animals which live close to humans, tend to learn our activity cycles and avoid contact in its foray. They hiss, puff its throat and strike with force when threatened. They are harmless snakes, but their bite can be painful at times.

Young: The female lays 8 to 16 eggs mainly between the months of March and July. It takes about 60 days to hatch the eggs.

Food: They are mainly rodent eaters, but also feed on frogs, lizards, birds and even small snakes. Young ones are primarily frog eaters, but start hunting mice and rats during their first year of life. They usually swallow the prey live or kill them by mechanically applying pressure of the jaws and body.

Status: Rat Snakes along with Cobras have always been the source of a large and uncontrolled skin industry. In some regions their entire lot has been wiped out, resulting in an explosive increase in the rodent population. Many tribal groups survive on this industry; but seasonal controls to allow breeding and studies on the level of cropping a persistent yield without the threat of extinction may afford them a livelihood without rigorous effect on agriculture.

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