Phipsons shieldtail snake

Uropeltis phipsonii

TAXONOMY

Uropeltis phipsonii Mason, 1888, "Bombay Ghats." No subspecies are recognized.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

None known.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

One of the larger species of uropeltids, reaching over 11.8 in (30 cm) in length. These snakes are dark brown above, paler below, with yellow stripes on the tail that meet ven-trally at the anal scales and a variable number of yellowish triangles that extend upward from the ventral scales in the anterior trunk. The ventral and adjacent scale rows have dark brown bases (anterior half) and yellow edges. The ventrals are nearly twice the width of the adjacent scales. The head is distinctly smaller than the neck (anterior trunk). The rostral scale is large, caps the entire front of the snout, and extends caudally between the nasal scales. The eye is relatively large, occupying half or more of the ocular shield, which meets the frontal scale. There are no supraocular scales. The caudal shield is large and either flat or depressed, composed of about 40 strongly bicari-nate scales and a large terminal scute.

DISTRIBUTION

From sea level to about 1,640 ft (500 m) in the Western Ghats of southern India.

Uropeltis phipsonii

HABITAT

Originally thick forest but replaced by rubber plantations. The soils these snakes live in become extremely hard during the dry season (which lasts about three months).

BEHAVIOR

Uropeltis phipsonii burrows well and has been seen in captivity to move both forward and backward in its tunnels.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Stomach contents of wild-caught specimens contained only earthworms and humus, but captive specimens may eat earwigs as well. In captivity, this species will emerge from tunnels at night to forage on the surface. Earthworms thrown on the surface are immediately grasped and pulled back into the tunnel.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Gives birth in March or April. Largest number of oviductal embryos found in a uropeltid was nine, in this species.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not listed by IUCN.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

None known.

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