Psammophis subtaeniatus PETERS, 1881

First of all, an introduction to this snake by Daniel Louw:


Subspecies In the past P. s. subtaeniatus and P. s. sudanensis were considered as subspecies, but the former appeared to be problematic. Broadley (1977) renamed it to Psammophis s. orientalis. At the moment this orientalis is considered a separate species.
Derivatio nominis Latin: sub = under; taeniatus = lined, striped. 'With a line/stripe along the underside'.
Common Names Brandstätter discusses the names in the various references. Some are: Gestreifte Sandrennatter, Rotgestreifte Sandrennatter, (Southern) Stripe-bellied Grass-Snake, Gelbbauch-Sandrennnatter. Afrikaans: Geelpens sandslang, Gestreepte grasslang, Gestreepte zand(ren)slang.

Native names: "Abu sa aifa", "Dowa", "Hlamadani", "Inimaro", "Iruwassi", "Kalingi", "Lubis", "Maserwe", "Mosenene", "Mosilin-yane", "Msalulu", "Msvema", "Narangi", "Nemoviri", Njammarumba", "nl hani", Noga ya phohu", "Nsalulu", "Nshwazi", "Nyamzalumba", "Nyangwazwa", "Peritoro","rungu", "Sangaraza", "Simisi", "Tsan-gazvi", "Turik", "umHlwazi" (CORKILL 1935, LOVERIDGE 1940, BROAD­LEY & COCK 1975, AÜERBACH 1987)

In scientific litterature this species is refered to with different names, depending on the actual taxonomic status and/or the opinion of the author. For instance: Psammophis moniliger, Psammophis sibilans var. bilineatus, Psammophis moniliger var. bilineatus, Psammophis brevirostris, Psammophis sibilans var.  subtaeniata, Psammophis sibilans, Psammophis bocagii, Psammophis subtaeniatus, Psammophis  subtaeniatus  subtaeniatus, Psammophis transvaalensis, Psammophis bocagei, Psammophis subtaeniatus f. typica, Psammophis notostictus

Distribution Broadley 2002: Southern Angola and northern Namibia, east through Botswana to southern Zambia, Zimbabwe, parts of western Mozambique, the northeastern provinces of South Africa and eastern Swaziland. Sympatric with P. orientalis in parts of southern Zimbabwe.

Click for a distribution map according to Broadley 2002.

Pictures Photographs by the webmaster.
Photographs of other origine.
Description (595 specimens examined) Nostril pierced between 2 nasals; preocular 1 (very rarely 2), in short contact with or separated from frontal; postoculars 2; temporals basically 2+2+3, but with frequent fusions; supralabials 9, the fourth, fifth & sixth entering orbit, rarely 8 (4 & 5), 8 (3,4,5), 9 (5 & 6), 10 (5,6,7) or 10 (4,5,6,7); infralabials usually 10 (rarely 9 or 11), the first 4 (rarely 5) in contact with anterior sublinguals; dorsal scales in 17-17-13 rows; ventrals 155-181; cloacal shield divided; subcaudals 106-132.
Head brown above, uniform, or more often with largely transverse grey markings which may be present only posteriorly, continuing onto the neck as a series of faint crossbars; supralabials, chin and throat white, yellow or vermillion, usually heavily speckled with black; 7 mid-dorsal scale rows brown, sometimes each scale bordered with black; a yellow or white dorsolateral stripe on scale rows 4 and 5 is black-edged above and below and followed by a chestnut to brown lateral band, the lower half of outer scale row (scale row 1) and ends of ventrals white, separated by a pair of black ventral hair lines from a yellow mid-ventral band. A more or less uniform colour morph, with both dorsal and ventral stripes vestigial or completely absent, is not uncommon in the Middle Zambezi Valley, these specimens have previously been considered hybrids between P. subtaeniatus and P. phillipsii (Broadley 1977, 1983
, 2002).

Corkill 1935: "It is a typical sand snake like the foregoing species. There may be a dark line running down the middle of the back and a thin one each side of the belly. The scale terminating the snout is broader than deep. The anal is paired. The ventrals number 151 to 168, the subcaudals 100 to 108 pairs and the dorsals 17 in the row. The limit of recorded length is 1030 mm."

Isemonger (1968 ) gave as a maximum size of 185 cm on Psammophis sibilans, with an average of 120 cm. For Psammophis subtaeniatus subtaeniatus Isemonger gives an average length of 90 cm , with a maximum of 120 cm . The maximum for Psammophis subtaeniatus sudanensis is according to him at 135 cm, which would make this subspecies slightly larger than the nominate.

Habitat & food "Commonly encountered in sandveld around Pio Cabral Headquarters and Fish-Eagle Research Camp. One individual examined had 8 UL and 120 subcaudals. Although the UL count may be indicative of P. orientalis, the high subcaudal count and coloration confirm that it is P. subtaeniatus. Although these records are c. 100 km southeast of the distribution range indicated in Branch (1998), Broadley (1983) recorded this species in the vicinity of the Banhine swamps."(Pietersen 2013)
Captivity Elaborate details are given in the articles that Hans van der Rijst and I wrote in the eighties and nineties. These animals were mainly imported from Kenya and did not seem to know a definite breeding season.
  • Auerbach,R.D. 1987. The Amphibians and Reptiles of Botswana. Mokwepa Consultants, Botswana, 295 pp.

  • Bauer, Aaron M.; Branch, William R. & Haacke, Wulf D. 1993. The herpetofauna of the Kamanjab area and adjacent Damaraland, Namibia. Madoqua (Windhoek), 18 (2): 117-145.

  • Bauer,A.M.; Günther,R. & Klipfel,M. 1995. The herpetological contributions of Wilhelm C.H. Peters (1815-1883). SSAR Facsimile Reprints in Herpetology, 714 pp.

  • Böhme,W. 1987. Zur Kenntnis von Psammophis subtaeniatus Peters 1882 an seinem nordöstlichen Arealrand. Salamandra 23 (2/3): 84-89

  • Boycott, R.C. 1992. An Annotated Checklist of the Amphibians and Reptiles of Swaziland. The Conservation Trust of Swaziland, 1992; online at http://www.sntc.org.sz/checklst/sdreptam.html.

  • Broadley, D.G. 1959. The herpetology of Southern Rhodesia. Part I--the snakes Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. Harvard 120 (1): 1-100 [reprint 1972]

  • Broadley, D.G. 1963. Snakes of Southem Rhodesia. 13. The Stripe-bellied Sand Snake (Psammophis subtaeniatus subtaeniatus Peters). Afr. Wild Life 17: 39-40.

  • Broadley, D.G. 1966. A review of the African stripe-bellied sand snakes of the genus Psammophis. Arnoldia (Rhodesia) 2 (36): 1-9

  • Broadley, D.G. 1977. A review of the genus Psammophis in southern Africa (Serpentes: Colubridae). Arnoldia 8 (12): 1-29

  • Broadley, D.G. 1998. The reptilian fauna of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa). In: Schmidt, K.P. and Noble, G.K., Contributions to the Herpetology of the Belgian Congo... [reprint of the 1919 and 1923 papers]. SSAR Facsimile reprints in Herpetology, 780 pp.

  • Broadley, D.G. 2002. A review of the species of Psammophis Boie found south of Latitude 12° S (Serpentes: Psammophiinae). Afr. J. Herpetol. 51 (2): 83-119

  • Broadley, D.G.; Doria, C.T. & Wigge, J. 2003. Snakes of Zambia. An Atlas and Field Guide. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt, 280 pp. [review in Sauria 26 (3): 21]

  • Broadley,D.G. 1962. On some reptile collections from the North-Western and North-Eastern Districts of Southern Rhodesia 1958-1961, with descriptions of four new lizards. Occ. Pap. Nat. Mus. South. Rhodesia 26 (B): 787-843

  • Chifundera, K. 1990. Snakes of Zaire and their bites. Afr. Stud. Monogr. (Kyoto) 10(3): 137-157.

  • Chirio, Laurent and Ivan Ineich 2006. Biogeography of the reptiles of the Central African Republic. African Journal of Herpetology 55(1):23-59.

  • Cimatti, E. 2005. Zanzibar - Zala Zoological Park. Reptilia (GB) (39): 62-68

  • Fischer, J. G. 1884. Über einige afrikanische Reptilien, Amphibien und Fische des Naturhistorischen Museums I. Über die von Herrn Dr. G.A. Fischer in Massai Gebiete (Ost Afrika) auf seiner in Veranlassung der geographischen Gesellschaft in Hamburg unternommenen Expeditio Jahrb. Hamburg Wiss. Anst. 1: 1-32

  • FitzSimons, V.F.M. 1974. A field guide to the snakes of Southern Africa. 2nd edition. COLLINS, 221 pp. [first ed. 1970]

  • Loveridge, A. 1956. On snakes collected in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan by J.S. Owen, Esq. Sudan Notes Rec. 36: 37-56 [1955]

  • Loveridge, Arthur 1929. East African reptiles and amphibians in the United States National Museum. Bull. US Natl. Mus. (151): 1-135

  • Loveridge,A. 1936. African reptiles and amphibians in the Field Museum of Natural History. Zool. Ser. Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Chicago, 22 (1): 1-122

  • Peters, Wilhem Carl Hartwig 1867. Über eine Sammlung von Flederthieren und Amphibien aus Otjimbingue in Südwestafrica, welche Hr. Missionär Hahn dem zoologischen Museum zugesandt hat. Monatsber. königl. Akad. Wiss. Berlin. 1867 (April): 234-237

  • Peters,W. 1882. Naturwissenschaftliche Reise nach Mossambique auf Befehl seiner Majestät es Königs Friedrich Wilhelm IV. in den Jahren 1842 bis 1848 ausgefeführt von Wilhelm C. Peters. Zoologie III. Amphibien. Berlin (Reimer), 191pp.

  • Shine, Richard; William R. Branch, Jonathan K. Webb, Peter S. Harlow, and Terri Shine 2006. Sexual Dimorphism, Reproductive Biology, and Dietary Habits of Psammophiine Snakes (Colubridae) from Southern Africa. Copeia 2006 (4): 650-664

  • Sternfeld, R. 1910. Zur Schlangenfauna Deutsch-Südwestafrikas. Mehrere Fälle von Mimikry bei afrikanischen Schlangen. Mitt. zool. Mus. Berlin, 5: 51-60


Direct sources for this page:


Volker Hajen, Snakes of Namibia, found at Toko
Lodge Himba Village, Namibia
Picture by Daniel Steyl