Kashmir rock agama | Laudakia tuberculata Gray, 1827

Kashmir rock agama | Laudakia tuberculata Gray, 1827   Kashmir rock agama is a species of lizard that belong to family agamidae which i...

Black Headed Royal Snake | Spalerosophis atriceps, Fischer (1885)

Spalerosophis atriceps is commonly known as Black Headed Royal Snake or Diadem Snake & is a species of colubridae family of snakes...

Spalerosophis atriceps is commonly known as Black Headed Royal Snake or Diadem Snake & is a species of colubridae family of snakes.  S. atriceps species is endemic to South Asia found in India (north western part) Nepal and Pakistan whereas the type locality of species is entitled “Himalaya” in original description. Found in a wide range of elevation up to 6560 ft. above sea level.

Spalerosophis atriceps 

(Image source: www.reptile-database.org)


Scientific classification
Kingdom:
Animalia
Phylum:
Chordata
Class:
Reptilia
Order:
Squamata
Suborder:
Serpentes
Family:
Colubridae
Genus:
Spalerosophis
Species:
atriceps
Binomial name
Spalerosophis atriceps, Fischer (1885)

Dorsally the species is observed to be orange, yellow to yellowish brown or pink having sprinkled blackish spots from behind head up to tail. The body of these snakes is robust covered with glossy scales, with little keeled oval shaped scales are present on the dorsal side. The top of head is sometimes is wholly black or and deep red having black shades. Besides, the lateral sides of head and nape are found deep red colored while ventrally pinkish. Juveniles and sub adults specimens vary from adults. They have an orange colored body with brown or yellow color typically, having a streak of black patches laterally. On the ventral sides the species is generally pinkish-red in color with blackish spots which are arranged in irregular manner at some places. Spalerosophis atriceps have long tail of same shade as of dorsal side with blackish blotches; whereas sub adults and young ones have asymmetrical patterns.

Head is elongated, triangular and is clearly distinct from neck, rostral broader than high; covered under scrappy scales. The specimens is having 10-13 supralabials which are separated from eyes by a chain of small sub ocular scales; eyes are large having round pupil in these snakes; prefrontal’s are fragmented into small scales; loreal-2; preocular-2; postocular 3-4; temporal 3-4. Dorsal scales are little keeled and are 23-25/27-29/19-21; ventral scales are 216-278 (highest reported in one female specimen from Gilgit); anal can be either divided or undivided and subcaudal are 82-112, paired in cress cross manner.

Spalerosophis atriceps can attain maximum length (snout-to-vent length) of about 6.6 ft. However the average length of the species recorded is 5 ft. with the new born size is about 25-47 cm. It is an oviparous specious of snakes which mate during winters till monsoon, where new born can be seen throughout monsoon months. According to one report in India an adult female laid a clutch of 3-8 eggs in October having eggs dimensions viz., 2.2–3.1 in (56–78 mm) long by 0.63–1.06 in (16–27 mm) wide.

Spalerosophis atriceps is a nocturnal species which prefer rocky areas, scrub forest, deserts and semi deserts. The species is capable of showing arboreal activity besides terrestrial; on frightening it coils its body and makes loud hiss which sounds like pressure cooker whistle. 

In northern India the species is confined to urban settlement of many parts of its range and often observed over buildings besides prefer mounds, rodent holes, rock crevices for perching. It has been reported from deserts and semi deserts of northwest India from Kutch, Gujarat to foothills of Himalayan zones of Jammu and Kashmir.

In desert ecosystem it is among the major reptilian which keeps under control the populace of birds and rodents in its range of habitation. The species if protected in India under schedule 4 of Wildlife Protection Act (1972). Road kill and killings due to misidentification, and its large size are the main threats besides loss of habitat.
Literature:
Baig, K.J. and Masroor, R. 2008. The snakes of the genus Spalerosophis Jan, 1865 in Indo-Pakistan and Iran (Squamata: Serpentes: Colubridae). Herpetozoa, 20 (3/4):109-115 - get paper here
Baig, K.J., Masroor, R. and Arshad, M. 2008. Biodiversity and ecology of the herpetofauna of Cholistan Desert, Pakistan. Russian Journal of Herpetology, 15 (3):193-205

Corlett, R.T. 2011. Vertebrate carnivores and predation in the oriental (Indomalayan) region. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 59 (2):325–360
Fischer, J.G. 1885. Ichthyologische und herpetologische Bemerkungen. V. Herpetologische Bemerkungen. Jahrb. Hamburg. Wiss. Anst. 2: 82-121 - get paper here
http://reptile-database.reptarium.cz/species?genus=Spalerosophis&species=atriceps retrieved on 25 March, 2020
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spalerosophis_atriceps retrieved on 25 March, 2020
Jamal, Q., Muhammad, I., Saif, U., Muhammad, A., Farrah, Z., Qaiser, Z. and Syed, B. R. 2018. Diversity and altitudinal distribution of Squamata in two distinct ecological zones of Dir, A Himalayan sub-zone of Northern Pakistan Pakistan J. Zool., 50 (5): 1835-1839 - get paper here
Kästle, W., Rai, K. and Schleich, H.H. 2013. Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Nepal. ARCO-Nepal e.V., 625 pp. - get paper here
Mahabal, A. and Sanjay, T. 2014. Instances of aberrant colors and patterns among the indian herpetofauna: a review. Russ. J. Herpetol., 21 (2): 80-88
Masroor, R. 2012. A contribution to the Herpetology of Northern Pakistan. SSAR, Ithaca [review in JoTT, 4 (6): 2670] - get paper here
Minton, S.A.Jr. 1966. A contribution to the herpetology of West Pakistan. Bull. Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist., 134: 29-184.
Patel, H. and Vyas, R. 2019. Reptiles of Gujarat, India: Updated Checklist, Distribution, and Conservation Status. Herpetology Notes, 12: 765-777 - get paper here
Saikia, U., Sharma, D.K. and Sharma, R.M. 2007. Checklist of the reptilian fauna of Himachal Pradesh, India. Reptile Rap, (8): 6-9- get paper here
Schätti, B., Tillack, F. and Helfenberger, N. 2009. A contribution to Spalerosophis microlepis JAN 1865, with a short review of the genus and a key to the species (Squamata: Serpentes: Colubridae). Herpetozoa, 22 (3/4): 115-135 - get paper here
Smith, M.A. 1943. The fauna of British India, Ceylon and Burma including the whole of The Indo-Chinese Sub-region, Reptilia and Amphibia. Vol. 3 Serpentes. Taylor & Francis, London.
Uetz, P., Freed, P. & Hošek, J. (eds.), The Reptile Database, http://www.reptile-database.org, accessed 26/03/2020
Wallach, V., Williams, K.L. and Boundy, J. (2014) Snakes of the World: A catalogue of living and extinct species. Taylor and Francis, CRC Press, 1237 pp.
Whitaker, R. and Captain, A. 2007. Snakes of India: The Field Guide. Chennai: Draco Books.
Whitaker, R. 2005. Common Indian Snakes, A Field Guide. Macmillian Publishers
Whitaker, R. Captain, A. 2004. Snakes of India, The Field Guide. Draco Books
Whitaker, R. and Captain, A. 2004. Snakes of India. Draco Books, 500 pp., reprinted 2007 - get paper here

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Black Headed Royal Snake | Spalerosophis atriceps, Fischer (1885)
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