Psammophis pulcher BOULENGER, 1895

Derivatio nominis Named after Latin “pulcher” = beautiful, handsome, fine, fair. 
Common Names Boulenger's Sand Racer, Beautiful Sand snake 
Synonym Psammophis pulcher BOULENGER 1895: 537
Psammophis pulcher — DREWES & SPAWLS 1973
Psammophis pulcher — SPAWLS 1978
Psammophis pulcher — LARGEN & SPAWLS 2010: 556 
Description Boulenger 1895:
"Snout once and two thirds as long as the eye. Rostral broader than deep, visible from above; nostril between two shields; internasals much shorter than the praefrontals; frontal twice and a half as long as broad, a little narrower than the supraocular, longer than its distance from the end of the snout, nearly as long as the parietals ; loreal once and two thirds as long as deep; two praeoculars, upper not reaching the frontal; two postoculars; temporals 1+ 2; eight upper labials, third deeper than fourth, fourth and fifth entering the eye, fifth as long as the eye ; four lower labials in contact with the anterior chin-shields, which are a little shorter than the posterior. Scales in 13 rows. Ventrals 144; anal divided ; subcaudals 108. Pale brownish above, with an orange black-edged vertebral stripe and a black lateral streak, running along the second row of scales and extending to the end of the snout after passing through the eye ; upper lip, outer row of scales, and outer ends of ventrals white ; venti-als yellow in the middle, with an orange line on each side.
Total length 435 millim.; tail 160."

Drewes and Spawls 1973: "The coloration of this species is quite distinctive, and it is the only African Psammophis with 13 mid-body scale rows."

Distribution Ethiopia, S Kenya, Somalia

Type locality: Webi Shebeli River in Somalia

The type locality of this species is "characterized by grass of less than one meter in height and abundant Acacia and Commiphora. The major parts of Kitui and Taita districts are also within this vegetation zone but in Kitui there are additional large tracts of moist woodlands consisting of Brachystegia, Isoberlinia, and Julbernardia which Keay (1959) calls "Undifferentiated - relatively moist types.
Parker (1949) suggested that high rainfall might be a factor in the distribution of P. pulcher. Rainfall at Mwingi varies from 400 to 760 mm per year, and at Voi, from 250 to 500 mm. In the type locality, the rainfall is unrecorded, but at Corrahei (Korahe) on the east fork of the Webbe Shibeli (Fafen River, approximately 250 km due east of the type locality), the mean annual precipitation is only 86 mm (Harnickell, 1967).
It is difficult to discuss the range of Psammophis pulcher on the basis of three specimens. Quite possibly the Kenya populations are relicts. Both authors have collected extensively in the Northeastern Province of Kenya, which is geographically between the three localities, and have found only Psammophis biseriatus, P. biseriatus tanganicus, and P. punctulatus trivirgatus. If rainfall is an important factor, this intermediate area could be an effective barrier, as it is quite arid. On the other hand, it is certainly possible that the snake does range throughout and has been overlooked. As virtually nothing is known of the biology of P. pulcher, it may well be that its habits are radically different from the other East African members of the genus. Also, it may exist in extremely low population numbers. In regard to the latter, Mr. Mutisya and Mr, Lenkey have collected professionally throughout southern and central Kenya for many years, and these are the only specimens of P. pulcher which have been caught. (Drewes and Spawls, 1973).


Types Type: BMNH 1946.1.8.50 (and possibly additional specimens). 

Source: slide Stephen Spawls, A Century of Kenyan Herpetology.

  • Boulenger, G.A. 1895. An account of the reptiles and batrachians collected by Dr. A. Donaldson Smith in western Somaliland and the Galla Country. Proc. zool. Soc. London 1895: 530-540
  • Drewes,R.C. & Spawls, S. 1973. The occurrence of the colubrid snake, Psammophis pulcher, in Kenya. Herpetologica 29: 306-307
  • Largen, M.J.; Spawls, S. 2010. Amphibians and Reptiles of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt, 694 pp.
  • Spawls, S. 1978. A checklist of the snakes of Kenya East Afr. Natur. Hist. Soc. and Natl. Mus., Nairobi, J. no. 167 18 pp.
  • Spawls, S.; Howell, K.; Drewes, R.C. & Ashe, J. 2001. A field guide to the reptiles of East Africa. Academic Press, 543 pp. [reviews in HR 34: 396 and Afr. J. Herp. 51; 147]


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