Boomslang

Dispholidus typus

SUBFAMILY

Colubrinae

TAXONOMY

Bucephalus typus Smith, 1829, Old Latakoo, South Africa. Two or three subspecies are recognized.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Serpent d'arbre du Cap; German: Boomslang.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

The boomslang is about 4 ft (1.25 m) in length. It is a long, slender snake with distinctive oblique dorsal scales. Its color is highly variable, ranging from nearly black to bright green and even reddish; some individuals have black scales with a bright yellow spot in the center. Males are more brightly colored than females. The head is large and the eyes are prominent.

DISTRIBUTION

Ranges widely throughout sub-Saharan Africa. HABITAT

This species occurs in a wide variety of habitats, including forest and savanna.

BEHAVIOR

The boomslang is highly arboreal.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

This snake forages diurnally, feeding on a variety of arboreal prey, especially birds and chameleons.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

The boomslang is oviparous, with a clutch size of about a dozen eggs.

CONSERVATION STATUS Not listed by the IUCN.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

The boomslang is one of the few colubrid snakes capable of producing a lethal bite in humans. The venom, which is injected through very long rear fangs, acts slowly to impair the blood's ability to clot, resulting in death by hemorrhage. The prominent herpetologist Karl P. Schmidt died from the bite of a boomslang in 1957. ♦

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