Amazonian snaileater

Dipsas indica

SUBFAMILY Xenodontinae

TAXONOMY

Dipsas indica Laurenti, 1768, Ceylon (in error). Five subspecies are recognized.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

None known.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

This is a slender snake about 28 in (70 cm) in length, with a laterally compressed body and a row of enlarged mid-dorsal scales. The body is gray to brown with large, dark brown blotches arranged in pairs on the sides. In some populations the edges of blotches may be somewhat irregular.

DISTRIBUTION

Found in tropical South America, from the Amazon Basin to Bolivia and northern Argentina.

HABITAT

This species occurs in both primary and secondary forest.

BEHAVIOR

This snake is highly arboreal, foraging at night.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

The Amazonian snail-eater feeds on snails, which it extracts from the shell. After the snake seizes the exposed body of a snail, the slender lower jaws of the snake are drawn into the shell as the snail retracts. The snake then slowly pulls on the soft body of the snail with its lower jaws, eventually tearing the body away from the shell, which is discarded.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

This oviparous species presumably resembles other species of Dipsas, which apparently lay very small clutches, as do some other slender arboreal snakes.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not listed by the IUCN, although it is clearly dependent upon tropical forest habitat, which is being cleared for timber and agriculture in many regions.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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