Cape filesnake

Mehelya capensis

SUBFAMILY

Lamprophiinae

TAXONOMY

Heterolepis capensis Smith, 1847, Eastern districts of Cape Province, South Africa. Three subspecies are recognized.

OTHER COMMON NAMES German: Kap-Feilennatter.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

As with other filesnakes, the body of this species has the distinctive triangular cross-section that inspired the common name. The shape results from highly modified vertebrae, which have long processes that project dorsally and laterally. Reaching about 60 in (1.5 m) in length, this species has narrow, keeled dorsal scales with patches of bare skin between them and an enlarged row of scales down the center of the back. The dorsal color is gray or dark brown, with a white or yellow mid-dorsal stripe.

DISTRIBUTION

Ranges through most of sub-Saharan Africa, from Cameroon and Somalia to the Cape.

HABITAT

The Cape filesnake occupies a variety of habitats but is especially prevalent in savannas.

BEHAVIOR

This is a terrestrial species that is active nocturnally. FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Although the Cape filesnake feeds on a variety of vertebrates, including lizards and mammals, snakes are the preferred prey. This species constricts its prey and may consume snakes that are very long relative to its own body.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

This species is oviparous, usually laying about six eggs. The hatchlings are large, about 15.8 in (40 cm) in length.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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