Rhamphiophis oxyrhynchus (REINHARDT, 1843)


Higher Taxa Lamprophiidae, Psammophiinae, Serpentes (snakes) 
Subspecies Rhamphiophis oxyrhynchus rostratus (PETERS 1854) is now considered as a valid species.
Common Names Rufous beaked snake
Derivatio nominis Eng.: rufous ( /ˈruːfəs/) is a colour that may be described as reddish-brown or brownish-red, as of rust or oxidised iron. The first recorded use of rufous as a colour name in English was in the year 1782. The name "rufous" is derived from the meaning of “red” in Latin and is used as an adjective in the names of many animals, especially birds, to describe the colour of their skin, fur or plumage. (Source: Wikipedia)
Lat.: Greek: Ὀξύρρυγχος; "sharp-nosed".
Synonym Psammophis oxyrhynchus REINHARDT 1843
Rhamphiophis oxyrhynchus — PETERS 1854
Rhagerrhis unguiculata — GÜNTHER 1868: 422
Coelopeltis oxyrhynchus — JAN
Coelopeltis porrectus JAN
Rhagerrhis oxyrhynchus — GÜNTHER 1888: 327
Rhamphiophis oxyrhynchus — BROADLEY 1998
Rhamphiophis oxyrhynchus — SPAWLS et al. 2001
Ramphiophis [sic] oxyrhynchus — PADIAL 2006 

Synonymy partly after GÜNTHER 1888. 

Distribution N Botswana, Zimbabwe, S Mozambique, N Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire), Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Ghana, Sudan, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Benin, Nigeria, Togo, Burkina Faso, Mali, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania,
Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi;
Distribution: It is suspected that specimens from “Tangaika” (Witte 1953) were obtained on the Tanzanian side of Lake Tanganyika (BROADLEY 1998). Not listed for Zambia by BROADLEY et al. (2003) and thus deleted for Zambia.
Type locality: Ghana, Gambia

"Moist savanna, from about 500 to 1300 m altitude, elsewhere to sea level. In our area, known only from three Uganda localities: Amudat, Ongino and Bulisa, elsewhere west to Mali."(3)

Chirio & Ineich 1991: "D' a p r è s les données de la littérature et l'examen des spécimens du Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, nous limiterons l'aire de distribution de R. o. oxyrhynchus, la forme typiquement occidentale, comme suit: Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Tchad, Sénégal, Guinée, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Bénin, Nigeria, Cameroun."

Venom See the article about the toxicity of these snakes.
Click here for scientific toxological information.
Identification "A fairly large, muscular snake. The head is short, snout pointed, eye large, with a round pupil and a golden or red-brown iris; this is hard to see in normal light. The tongue is pink with a white tip. Body cylindrical, tail 27 to 12 % of total length. The scales are smooth, in 17 raws at midbody, ventrals 170 to 196, subcaudals paired, 88 to 106. Maximum size about 1.5 m, average 70 cm to 1.2 m, hatching 28 to 35 cm. Colour quite variable: grey, pink, brown, yellow-brown or orange, in large specimens the dorsal scales are horizontally darkened in the centre, giving the body a finely striped appearance. The ventrals are immaculate white, cream or yellow, sometimes the throat is yellow and the belly white. Juveniles have a series of small rufous flank blotches. Similar species: Resembles several grey or brown snakes, but can be identified by the dark eye and beaked snout. Taxonomic Notes. For a long time, this species and the Rufous Beaked Snake Rhamphiophis rostratus, were thought to be subspecies."(3)
  Chirio&Ineich, 1991: "Cette sous-espèce présente une coloration caractéristique qui permet de la distinguer sans ambiguïté de R. o. rostratus ; en effet, elle est toujours brune, rouge ou rose presque uniforme et surtout ne présente aucune bande visible en avant et en arrière de l'oeil."
Sexing Chirio&Ineich, 1991: "Chez cette espèce, le nombre cumulé de ventrales et de sous-caudales est plus élevé chez les femelles (262-288, moyenne 274,6) que chez les mâles (243-278, moyenne 259,4)."
Life "Diurnal and terrestrial (although it will climb into bushes), spends much lime in holes, looking for prey. Quick-moving and alert; when moving through the bush it often pauses, head up. When it sees prey it may jerk the head from side to side, targeting its prey. Copulation in captivity occurred in the open, lasting between 20 minutes and 3 hours, in February and April. A Ugandan female was gravid in October, which could mean that hatchlings appear in the rainy season, March to April. Hatchlings in Ghana were captured in April and May, start of the rainy season. Multiple clutching has been recorded in captivity, up to four per year, whether this occurs in the wild is not known. Clutches of 6 to 18 eggs, roughly 2 x 4.5 cm, recorded. These snakes eat a wide variety of prey; rodents, lizards, frogs and snakes are taken."(3)

A very good article about the reproduction of this snake is that of Ernst e.a. 1999 (full text available).

Breeding Chad Holas had eggs hatching out after a 71 day incubation. He will write a breeding report for this site.
  • Auerbach,R.D. 1987. The Amphibians and Reptiles of Botswana. Mokwepa Consultants, Botswana, 295 pp.
  • Barnett, Linda K. & Emms, Craig 2005. Common reptiles of The Gambia. Rare Repro, Hailsham, East Sussex, 24 pp.
  • Bogert, Charles M. 1942. Snakes secured by the Snyder East African Expedition in Kenya Colony and Tanganyika Territory American Museum Novitates (1178): 1-5
  • Broadley, D. G. 1971. The reptiles and amphibians of Zambia. The Puku, Occas. Pap. Dept. Wild. Fish. Natl. Parks Zambia 6: 1-143
  • Broadley, D. G. & HOWELL, K. M. 1991. A check list of the reptiles of Tanzania, with synoptic keys. Syntarsus 1: 1—70
  • 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.; 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, L. 2009. Inventaire des reptiles de la région de la Réserve de Biosphère Transfrontalière du W (Niger/Bénin/Burkina Faso: Afrique de l’Ouest). [Herpetological survey of the W Transfrontier Biosphere Reserve area (Niger/Benin/Burkina Faso: West Africa] Bull. Soc. Herp. France (132): 13-41
  • Chirio, L. & Lebreton, M. 2007. Atlas des reptiles du Cameroun. MNHN, IRD, Paris 688 pp.
  • Chirio,L. & Ineich,I. 1992. Les genres Rhamphiophis Peters 1854 et Dipsina Jan 1863 (Serpentes, Colubridae): revue des taxons reconnus et description d'une espèce nouvelle. Bull. Mus. natl. Hist. nat., Paris, 4è ser. 13A (1-2): 217-235
  • Cimatti, E. 2005. Scaly encounters in Kenya. Reptilia (GB) (42): 65-69
  • Günther, A. 1868. Sixth account of new species of snakes in the collection of the British Museum. Ann. Mag. nat. Hist. (4) 1: 413-429
  • Günther,A. 1888. Contribution to the knowledge of snakes of tropical Africa. Ann. Mag. nat. Hist. (6) 1: 322-335
  • Lanza, B. 1990. Amphibians and reptiles of the Somali Democratic Republic: check list and biogeography. Biogeographia, 14: 407-465 [1988]
  • 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
  • Necas, P. & Schmidt, W. 2004. Stump-tailed Chameleons. Miniature Dragons of the Rainforest. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt, 256 pp. [review in Elaphe 14 (1): 24]
  • Peters,W.C.H. 1854. Diagnosen neuer Batrachier, welche zusammen mit der früher (24. Juli und 17. August) gegebenen Übersicht der Schlangen und Eidechsen mitgetheilt werden. Ber. Bekanntmach. Geeignet. Verhandl. Königl.-Preuss. Akad. Wiss. Berlin 1854: 614-628
  • Rasmussen,J.B. & B. Hughes 1996. Description of some new snake species. I. [English translation of the original Danish text of T. Reinhardt 1843]. Steenstrupia 22: 13-39
  • Raxworthy,C.J. & Attuquayefio,D.K. 2000. Herpetofaunal communities at Muni Lagoon in Ghana. Biodiversity and Conservation 9: 501-510
  • Reinhardt, J. T. 1843. Beskrivelse af nogle nye Slangearter. Danske Vidensk. Selsk. Afhandl. 10: 233-279.
  • 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]
  • Trape, J.-F. & Mané, Y. 2002. Les serpents du Sénégal: liste commentée des espèces. Bull. Soc. Pathol. Exot. 95 (3): 148-150
  • Trape, J.-F. & Mane, Y. 2004. Les serpents des environs de Bandafassi (Sénégal oriental). Bull. Soc. Herp. France 109: 5-34
  • Trape, J.-F. & Mane, Y. 2006. Guide des serpents d’Afrique occidentale. Savane et désert. [Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger]. IRD Editions, Paris, 226 pp.
  • Trape, Jean-François; Mane, Youssouph 2000. Les serpents des environs de Dielmo (Sine-Saloum, Sénégal). Bull. Soc. Herp. France 95: 19-35
  • Ullenbruch, K.; Grell, O.; Böhme, W. 2010. Reptiles from southern Benin, West Africa, with the description of a new Hemidactylus (Gekkonidae), and a country-wide checklist. Bonn Zool. Bull. 57 (1): 31-54
  • Werner, F. 1899. Ueber Reptilien und Batrachier aus Togoland, Kamerun und Deutsch-Neu-Guinea grösstentheils aus dem k. Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin. Verhandlungen der Kaiserlich-Königlichen Zoologisch-Botanischen Gesellschaft in Wien 49: 132-157
External links  
Video Video by Frankiecasa on Youtube:  


Direct references used on this page:

  1. The Reptile Database
  2. Rearfanged, the herpetological resource for opistoglyphous snakes (Fabian Dirks)
  3. Spawls, S.; Howell, K.; Drewes, R.C. & Ashe, J. 2001.