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Friday, September 14, 2007

Snakes of Sri Lanka - 9

Snakes of Sri Lanka - 9

By Jayasri Jayakody

Brown Speckled Whip Snake
(Ahaetulla pulverulentus) Henakandaya

An extremely slender snake with a tail measuring a third of its total body length it has dark brown colouration with darker or black speckles. Its head is extremely aerodynamic giving it the capability to strike with extreme speed.

This arboreal snake prefers low lying vegetation to an extent. Appears to be active by day but may be encountered at night as well. It is a very fierce snake and attacks repeatedly if cornered. Like its close relative the Green Vine Snake (Aheatulla nasuta) this snake also leaves teeth deeply gouged within the flesh of its adversary and vehemently rejects captivity.

The Brown Speckled Whip Snake feeds mainly on small lizards and tree frogs. It usually waits hidden for an opportunity and strikes at its unsuspecting prey with lighting speed. The prey is then killed with its powerful jaws. Often the prey is stunned due to shock and has no chance of escape.
Little is known about its reproductive habits. It is viviparous and the brood size is around 5.

Upon birth neonates measure around 600mm and are quite large compared to the mother than most other live born neonates. Little is known about there rate of growth. These snakes may ultimately reach lengths in excess of 1.5m.
Mildly venomous producing local symptoms but bites near the head, neck and spine could have adverse reactions.
The main factor that should be used to distinguish it from A.nasuta is its colour which is brownish instead of green.
Found in South India and Sri Lanka.
A fairly common snake predominantly found in the forests of the central hills, its range includes Kandy, Yatiyanthota, Ratnapura and Peradeniya. It has also been recorded from Horana, Galle, Veyangoda and Kurunagala.
Banded Racer
(Argyrogena fasciolata) Wal Garandiya

First noticed by Russel in 1776, this snake was christened as Coluber fasciolatus by Shaw.
The Banded Racer is a snake with a near uniform brownish colouration which is occasionally accompanied by the faint white transverse stripes, the remnants of its juvenile colouration. It is capable of flattening its fore body like a cobra. Its body is cylindrical and muscular, making it a very strong and fast snake.

Diurnal and very active, this snake sticks to the forest floor and travels very swiftly avoiding human contact. If cornered it will erect its hood like a cobra and boldly strike if further challenged. It is very difficult to capture and will strike repeatedly and wiggle tenaciously if seized stopping only when exhausted. Once captive it becomes tame gradually but becomes extremely violent if roughly handled or molested.

Chiefly feeds on rats and other small rodents. It may also consume frogs and lizards provided the opportunity. It stalks out its prey and either kills it with its powerful jaws or swallows its prey alive.
Very little is known about its reproductive habits. It is probably oviparous like its closest relatives.

Little is known about is rate of growth. The young are camouflaged with black and white transverse stripes for protection. These stripes deteriorate with age. This snake may reach a maximum length of 1.2m
The Banded Racer is a non venomous snake.

Found in India and Sri Lanka, this rare snake is found in the dry scrubland of the northern part of the island. Its range includes Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Dambulla and Puttalam.

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