Friday, October 21, 2016

False Coral Snake, Erythrolamprus aescapulii (Family Dipsaidae)

On Trinidad, this species is known from a single specimen collected in Trinidad’s Arima Valley. Size: 640 mm SVL; 728 TL; tail 13.7% SVL. Identification: This snake is a coral snake mimic. Bands of red, white and black encircle the body in the sequence red-black-cream-black-red. Rostral visible from above; nasal divided; one preocular, loreal small and single; two postoculars; seven upper labials; nine lower labials; ventrals 198; cloacal plate divided; 41 paired subcaudals. Dorsal scales smooth and in 15 rows. Similar Species: The small coral snake lacks a loreal, and has single black bands. It can be readily distinguished from the large coral snake by the presence of a loreal scale, the narrow paired black bands (the large coral snake has wide black bands in triads). It can be distinguished from Jan’s False Coral Snake by its shorter tail (less than 50 subcaudals in aesculapii) and the posterior border of the rostral does not extend beyond the front edge of the nostril (it does so in bizona). Distribution: Widespread Trinidad, Venezuela, Colombia, and the Guianas southward to Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and Argentina. Habitat: A snake of primary forest that spends much of its time underground. The single Trinidad specimen from the Arima Valley is from wet, primary forest, transitional between seasonal and lower montane rainforest, above a stream. Natural History: Crepuscular, but may be active any time. Diet: other snakes including the three-lined snake, coral snakes, and the black headed snake; it may also eat synbranchid eels. Note: currently several subspecies are recognized, with E. a. aesculapii being the taxon present on Trinidad.

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