Psammophis condanarus (MERREM, 1820)


Subspecies  PAUWELS et al. (2003) state that P. c. condanarus and P. s. indochinensis can be distinguished by their microdermatoglyphic patterns which is said to be “echinate” in condanarus but “canaliculate” in indochinensis (based on F. Brandstätter’s PhD thesis of 1995).
Distribution: DOWLING & JENNER 1988 list only one species of Psammophis from Myanmar, namely Psammophis condanarus.
Psammophis condanarus indochinensis SMITH 1943 is treated here as valid species. (1)

Ganesh e.a. 2017: "Smith (1943) described the Indo-Chinese population of P. condanarus as subspecies P. condanarus indochinensis based on the differences in ventral, subcaudal counts and dorsal stripe patterns. Later it was given full species status by Hughes (1999) in his review on primarily African species. Psammophis condanarus is distinct from P. indochinensis by having higher ventrals (165-179 vs. 156-173 in P. indochinensis), higher subcaudals (75-93 vs. 66-85 in P. indochinensis), dorsal pattern (vertebral stripes darker vs. vertebral stripe lighter/absent or variable), number of dark dorsal stripes (3 or 5 vs. 4 in P. indochinensis) and their different geographical distributions. It is noteworthy here that the ventral counts of the new material resemble P. indochinensis much more than P. condanarus. We provisionally consider them to represent P. condanarus, based on congruence of other morphological characters and distribution."

Common Names E: Sand Snake
G: Sandrennnatter 
Synonym Coluber condanarus MERREM 1820: 107
Phayrea Isabellina THEOBALD 1868 (fide BOULENGER1890)
Psammophis condanarus — BOULENGER 1890
Leptophis bellii JERDON 1853 (fide SMITH 1943)
Psammophis indicus BEDDOME 1863 (fide SMITH 1943)
Psammophis condonarus [sic] — JERDON 1865: 417
Psammophis condanarus — FISCHER 1881: 228
Mike elegantissimus WERNER 1924
Psammophis condanarus — SMITH 1943: 364
Psammophis condernarus — CHAN-ARD et al. 1999: 182 (in error) 
A nomen nudum Psammophis sibilans quadrilineata Jan, 1863 also exists (Wallach et al. 2014).
Taphrometopon condanarum - Wallach et al. 2014
Description (from Boulenger 1890)

Ganesh e.a. 2017:

"Description (also see Table 1): A thick-set, smooth and glossy-bodied snake with fairly large head, sharply protruding snout, concave loreal, distinct neck, robust body and tapering tail. Measurements of preserved specimen (in mm): head length: 23.50, head width: 11.50, head depth: 7.50, midbody width: 12.00, eye diameter: 3.30, eye-lip distance: 5.50, inter-narial distance: 3.50, frontal scale length: 6.00, frontal-rostral distance: 4.00, frontal width at midline: 2.20, frontal width at anterior end: 3.00. Measurements of live specimen (in mm): head length: 18.5; head width: 7.5; head depth: 7.0; body
width: 10.5; eye diameter: 2.5. Scalation: Rostral visible from above, protruding, with a distinct cleft underenath; nasal scale only partially divided, sutured below the nostril, reaching between 1st and 2nd supralabials, loreal oval, posterior genials slightly longer than anterior pair, dorsal scales imbricate, smooth but with distinct and deep apical pits, outermost coastal scale rows slightly larger than the rest, vertebral scale rows not larger than the rest, scales on dorsal tail larger, ventral scales very wide, extending on to ventrolateral parts, not angulate laterally. Colour in preservation of voucher specimen
(formalin-darkened): slaty dark grey above with white and black spots on labia, chin and outermost scalerows; dorsum with three dark greyish-brown stripes - one vertebral stripe that is five scalerows wide (at midbody) narrowing posteriorly to three scalerows wide; this one flanked by two lateral stripes on either side that are one scale row wide; each ventral scale dotted with black on either extremities forming a ventro-lateral line.
Colouration in life (based on both specimens): dorsum light rosy grey, with a broad, five scales-wide dark
coffee brown, black and white edged vertebral stripe; laterally flanked by two thinner stripes three scaleswide, partly of fully black-bordered similar dark brown bilateral stripes on each side. Top of head dark brown being the origin of the dark broad vertebral stripe; sides of head covered by similar dark brown stripe across eye, separated above a thin lighter supraocular stripe; rest of the head (including labia), chin and underside of head pale white with brownish spots; a brown-bordered white ventrolateral stripe covering the confluence of ventral and outermost coastal scalerows; ventral and subcaudals scales pale yellow. Hemipenis (n=1, of the preserved specimen): organ everted, with a single side exposed out; organ smooth, slender and without a broad lobe-head, not quite forked at tip; pedicel narrower, at the level of tubular part; pedicel head lacking spiny projections or other distinct architecture; sulcul lips not
prominent, smooth; organ 18mm long and 4mm wide, extending upto 5th subcaudal scale."


Distribution For both subspecies together: N India (incl. Himachal Pradesh, Punjab [Dino Aulakh, pers. comm.]), Pakistan, Nepal, Myanmar (1)

This species is found in Pakistan in the area of the Indus Delta and lower Punjab, and ranges throughout northern India, Nepal and southeast Asia to Viet Nam and Indonesia (McKay 2006) although it does not appear to inhabit southern Thailand (Cox 1991). It is generally found below 2,000 m above sea level.
Native: Bangladesh; Cambodia; India; Indonesia; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Myanmar; Nepal; Pakistan; Thailand; Viet Nam (2)

Type locality: Ganjam District

Map legend:
 - Region according to the TDWG standard, not a precise distribution map. (1)

This species is reported to be common (Sharma 2003, Daniel 2002). G. Zug (pers. comm.) notes that in Myanmar specifically it is widespread and moderately abundant from the central region of the country to the Ayeyarwady delta.
Though habitat degradation is occurring in portions of its range, this species is tolerant of human-affected environments and it is unlikely that this species is being impacted upon by any major threats throughout its range. (2)

In 2017 there was a sighting in South India. See the article.

Ganesh e.a. (2017): "The Indian Sand Snake Psammophis condanarus (Merrem, 1820) is distributed in eastern, northern and central India including parts of the Himalayan foothills, Bengal, Indo-gangetic plains, northwestern arid desert zones including Pakistan and northern parts of the Deccan plateau (Stoliczka 1872; Murray 1886; Wall 1908; Minton 1966; Whitaker & Captain 2004; Chandra & Gajbe 2005), making it the most widespread species of the genus in the Indian subcontinent. In fact it is the only congener in most of the central and eastern parts of peninsular India (Smith 1943; Whitaker & Captain 2004). Three more congeneric species namely P. schokari (Forskal, 1775), P. longifrons Boulenger, 1890, and P. leithi Günther, 1869 are confined mainly to northwestern and central India (Whitaker & Captain 2004; Vyas & Patel 2013). A closely related congener Psammophis indochinensis Smith, 1943 inhabits the Indo-Chinese region (Smith 1943).

Habitat and Ecology: "This species occurs in diverse habitats including moist grasslands, shrublands and woodlands, mangroves and agricultural land (Sharma 2003, McKay 2006, Schleich and Kästle 2002). It is reported to "adapt" to rural-agricultural modifications (G. Zug pers. comm.). It appears to be partially arboreal and can be found climbing trees and bushes. It is a diurnal species which shelters in the burrows of sand lizards (Khan 2006)."(2)

Ganesh 2017: "Field observations: The snake from Tirupati was observed actively moving about in a grassy patch during early morning hours in Kapilatheertham, at the foot of the Tirumala Hills. The one from Hospet was captured from suburban outskirts of the city during daytime when it was taking shelter along the boundary wall of a building. The area was vegetated with thorny bushes and human settlements."

Stuart & Heatwole 2008: "Psammophis condanarus (Merrem) (Figs. 9–10) FMNH 255234, Laos, Champasak Province, Mounlapamok District, Dong Khanthung National Biodiversity Conservation Area, 14°09’N, 105°39’E, 100 m elev., in tree 1.5 m above the ground in a rice paddy adjacent to a grassland with dry dipterocarp forest, coll. Bryan L. Stuart, 9 July 1998. A single male has the nasal incompletely divided; frontal longer than its distance from the tip of the snout, anterior end less than twice as broad as the middle; divided anal plate; and four dark brown longitudinal stripes edged with black, continuing onto the head as longitudinal markings."

Types Lectotype: Russell 1796, plate 27 (1)
Comment Synonymy partly after Wallach 1988, Amphibia-Reptilia 9: 62. (1)
  • Russell,P. 1796. An account of Indian serpents collected on the coast of Coromandel, containing descriptions and drawings of each species, together with experiments and remarks on their several poisons. George Nicol, London, 90 pp.
  • Merrem, B. 1820. Versuch eines Systems der Amphibien I (Tentamen Systematis Amphibiorum). J. C. Kriegeri, Marburg, 191 pp.
  • Jerdon,T.C. 1865. Remarks on observations contained in Dr. Günther’s work on the reptiles of British India. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (3) 15: 416-418 - get paper here
  • Theobald, WILLIAM 1868. Catalogue of reptiles in the Museum of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. J. Asiatic Soc. Bengal, Calcutta, 37 (extra number 146): (2), vi, 7-88 - get paper here
  • Fischer, J. G. 1881. Herpetologische Bemerkungen vorzugsweise über Stücke des Naturhistorischen Museums in Bremen. Abhandlungen des Naturwissenschaftlichen Vereins in Bremen, 7: 225-238 [Nov. 1881]
  • Boulenger, George A. 1890. The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma. Reptilia and Batrachia. Taylor & Francis, London, xviii, 541 pp. - get paper here
  • Boulenger, G.A. 1896. Catalogue of the snakes in the British Museum, Vol. 3. London (Taylor & Francis), xiv + 727 pp. - get paper here
  • Wall, F. 1907. Notes on Snakes collected in Fyzabad. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 18: 101-129 - get paper here
  • Werner, F. 1924. Neue oder wenig bekannte Schlangen aus dem Naturhistorischen Staatsmuseum in Wien. l. Teil. Sitzungsb. Ber. Akad. Wiss., Wien, Abt. l, 133: 29 - 56
  • Smith, M.A. 1943. The Fauna of British India, Ceylon and Burma, Including the Whole of the Indo-Chinese Sub-Region. Reptilia and Amphibia. 3 (Serpentes). Taylor and Francis, London. 583 pp.
  • Taylor,E.H. 1965. The serpents of Thailand and adjacent waters. Univ. Kansas Sci. Bull. 45 (9): 609-1096 - get paper here
  • Dowling, H.G., & Jenner, J.V. 1988. Snakes of Burma: checklist of reported species and bibliography Smithsonian Herp. Inf. Serv. (76): 19 pp. - get paper here
  • Wallach,V. 1988. Status and redescription of the genus Padangia Werner, with comparative visceral data on Collorhabdium Smedley and other genera (Serpentes: Colubridae). Amphibia-Reptilia 9: 61-76 - get paper here
  • Cox, M.J. 1991. The Snakes of Thailand and Their Husbandry. Krieger Publishing Company, Florida.
  • Zug, G.R. & Mitchell, J.C. 1995. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Royal Chitwan National Park, Nepal. Asiatic Herpetological Research 6: 172-180 - get paper here
  • Brandstätter, Frank; Redl, Michela 1997. On the etymology of Asian snakes of the genus Psammophis (Serpentes: Colubridae) Hamadryad 22 (1): 50-53
  • CAMP Workshop. 1997. Conservation Assessment and Management Plan Workshop: Reptiles of India. Biodiversity Conservation Prioritisation Project, India. Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, Coimbatore, India.
  • Cox, Merel J.; Van Dijk, Peter Paul; Jarujin Nabhitabhata & Thirakhupt,Kumthorn 1998. A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Ralph Curtis Publishing, 144 pp.
  • Hughes, B. 1999. Critical review of a revision of Psammophis (Linnaeus 1758) (Serpentes, Reptilia) by Frank Brandstätter. Afr. J. Herpetol. 48 (1-2): 63-70 - get paper here
  • Chan-ard,T.; Grossmann,W.; Gumprecht,A. & Schulz,K. D. 1999. Amphibians and reptiles of peninsular Malaysia and Thailand - an illustrated checklist [bilingual English and German]. Bushmaster Publications, Würselen, Gemany, 240 pp. [book review in Russ. J Herp. 7: 87] - get paper here
  • Schleich, H.H. and Kästle, W. (eds). 2002. Amphibians and Reptiles of Nepal. A.R.G. Ganter Verlag Kommanditgesellschaft, FL 9491, Ruggell.
  • Khan, M.S. 2002. A Guide to the Snakes of Pakistan. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt.
  • Daniel, J.C. 2002. The Book of Indian Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press / Bombay Natural History Society, Oxford.
  • Pauwels, O.S.G.; David, P.; Chimsunchart, C. & Thirakhupt, K. 2003. Reptiles of Phetchaburi Province, Western Thailand: a list of species, with natural history notes, and a discussion on the biogeography at the Isthmus of Kra. Natural History Journal of Chulalongkorn University 3 (1): 23-53
  • Sharma, R.C. 2003. Handbook: Indian Snakes. Zoological Survey of India, Kolkata.
  • Sharma, R. C. 2004. Handbook Indian Snakes. AKHIL BOOKS, New Delhi, 292 pp.
  • Khan, M.S. 2006. Amphibians and reptiles of Pakistan. Krieger Publishing Company, Malabar, Florida, USA.
  • McKay, J.L. 2006. A Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Bali. Krieger Publishing Company, Malabar, Florida.
  • Saikia, U.; Sharma, D.K. & Sharma, R.M. 2007. Checklist of the Reptilian fauna of Himachal Pradesh, India. Reptile Rap (8): 6-9 - get paper here
  • ZIEGLER, THOMAS; RALF HENDRIX, VU NGOC THANH, MARTINA VOGT, BERNHARD FORSTER & DANG NGOC KIEN 2007. The diversity of a snake community in a karst forest ecosystem in the central Truong Son, Vietnam, with an identification key. Zootaxa 1493: 1-40 - get paper here
  • Cottone, Amanda M. and Aaron M. Bauer 2009. Notes on sexual size dimorphism and reproduction in the Asian Sand Snake, Psammophis condanarus (Psammophiidae) Hamadryad 34 (1): 182-185
  • IUCN. 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2010.4). Available at: http://www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 27 October 2010).
  • A.D. Rangarajan. Rare sand snake sighted in Seshachalam hills. The Hindu, July 30, 2017.
  • S.R. Ganesh, Vivek Sharma & M. Bubesh Guptha. Records of the Indian Sand Snake Psammophis condanarus (Merrem, 1820) (Reptilia: Lamprophiidae) in southern India. In: Journal of Threatened Taxa | www.threatenedtaxa.org | 26 July 2017 | 9(7): 10453–10458
External links


(1) The Reptile Database
(2) iNaturalist