World Snake Day Special – Species Spotlight!

Happy World Snake Day! To celebrate, we have a special two-part blog post. Take a look at the first part of our special here!

For part 2, we have a special ‘Species Spotlight’. Two weeks ago, we asked our followers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to vote on which species of snake we should feature today. The snake species that had the most votes was… ALL of them! Enjoy!

Paradise Tree Snake (Chrysopelea paradisi)
TWY09518
Photo by Toh Wei Yang.
FamilyColubridae
Venomous?Rear-fanged, mildly venomous but harmless to humans
HabitatLowland and low montane rainforest, dry forest, disturbed habitat
DietFrogs, lizards and birds

This beautiful snake is commonly found in many parks and gardens in Singapore. It belongs to the genus Chrysopelea, which consist of snakes which can “fly”. These snakes splay their ribs to flatten their body, effectively acting like a “wing” to slow its descent. It then movies in an undulatory motion through the air, and is even able to maneuver and change direction while still in the air! Check out our previous series “Herps in the sky” for a full description.

Elegant Bronzeback (Dendrelaphis formosus)
D.formosus1 (2)
Photo by Emmanuel Goh
FamilyColubridae
Venomous?Non-venomous 
HabitatLowland rainforest
DietLizards and amphibians

Bronzebacks are diurnal snakes that are shy and move very quickly. There are six species of bronzebacks in Singapore, and it can be a challenge to tell them apart in the field. In fact, the Kopstein’s Bronzeback was confused with the Elegant Bronzeback in the past, and was only described as a separate species in 2007 (Vogel & Van, 2007)

The Elegant Bronzeback is endangered in Singapore, and is restricted mostly to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (Davison et al., 2008). Recently, these elusive snakes were caught on camera in the documentary Wild City, with the first known recording of their mating behaviour. 

Wagler’s Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus wagleri)
Tropidolaemus wagleri_Emm2
Photo by Emmanuel Goh
FamilyViperidae: Crotalinae
VenomousYes, highly! Do not disturb!
HabitatLowland tropical forests, coastal forests and mangroves
DietBirds, lizards, frogs and small mammals

Wagler’s Pit Vipers are one of the seven highly venomous snakes that we can find in Singapore, alongside the cobras and coral snakes. As ambush predators, they are usually found unmoving on branches in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. These snakes are sexually dimorphic, which means the males and females look radically different!

As their name suggests, they have heat-sensing pits on their face that enable them to hunt under the cover of darkness. In addition, viperids are ovoviviparous, where they retain eggs in their body and ‘birth’ their young live. Such young neonates also have a white tip at the end of the tail, possibly used as a lure to attract lizards and other prey (McCleary et al., 2015)

A male Wagler’s Pit Viper with a Malayan Rock Gecko (Cnemaspis peninsularis) in its mouth
Photo by Law Ing Sind
Reticulated Python (Malayopython reticulatus)
TWY02667
Photo by Toh Wei Yang
FamilyPythonidae
Venomous?Nonvenomous, but a powerful constrictor
HabitatRiverine forest, rainforest and mangrove swamp
DietMammals

Reticulated pythons are the longest snakes in the world! In Singapore, they average around 2-3m in length and patrol our drains. They generally eat rats, and do us a great service in keeping the pest populations down.

These snakes are non venomous, killing their prey by constriction. One common misconception is that constriction blocks the prey’s airways, and suffocates the prey to death. However, research reveals that the constriction cuts off the prey’s blood supply instead, hence sending its prey into cardiac arrest.

References

Davison, G. W., Ng, P. K., & Ho, H. C. (2008). The Singapore red data book: Threatened plants & animals of Singapore. Nature Society.

McCleary, R. J. R., Low, M.-R., & Bickford, D. P. (2015). Intraclutch characteristics of the Wagler’s viper, Tropidolaemus wagleri (Serpentes: Viperidae), in Singapore. 3.

Vogel, G., & Van Rooijen, J. (2007). A new species of Dendrelaphis (Serpentes: Colubridae) from Southeast Asia. Zootaxa, 1394(1), 25-45.

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