Variable quillsnouted snake

Xenocalamus bicolor

SUBFAMILY

Aparallactinae

TAXONOMY

Xenocalamus bicolor Günther, 1868, Zambezi (later corrected to Damaraland), Namibia.

OTHER COMMON NAMES English: Striped quill-snouted snake.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

The female is 28.5 in (72 cm) and the male 22.5 in (57 cm). This very thin, elongate snake has smooth scales in 17 midbody rows. The snout is extremely pointed with an un-derslung mouth. It is pale above with paired dark blotches or stripes; the belly is white.

DISTRIBUTION

From the southern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, through Angola and western Zambia, to central South Africa and Mozambique.

HABITAT

Deep sandy soils with mixed savanna. BEHAVIOR

These bizarre burrowing snakes tunnel deep into sandy soils searching for their prey. They come to the surface only when searching for mates or after heavy rain. Gentle in the hand, they rarely bite but may give a sharp prick with their hard snout.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

This snake is a specialist feeder on large wormlizards (e.g., Monopeltis sp.). How quill snouts manage to kill and overpower such large prey within the confines of their tight burrows remains a mystery—perhaps they stab them to death.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Oviparous, they lay a few (up to four) elongate eggs in a chamber in moist sand. The young measure about 8 in (20 cm).

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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