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Rhamphiophis rostratus PETERS, 1854

Photo Martin Habecker. Click to view full size.

   
Identification A snake with a beak-like snout and with the eyes in contact with the scales that border the upper lip. The anal is paired. The ventrals number 148 to 192, the subcaudals 90 to 110 pairs and the dorsals 17 in the row at midbody. The limit of recorded length is 1380 mm. (Corkill 1935).

Chirio and Ineich 1991: "Ce taxon se distingue de la forme nominative par sa couleur dorsale plutôt ivoire, rarement brun-rouge ou rosé et surtout par la bande sombre qui s'étend de la narine jusqu'en arrière de l'oeil. Cette bande est très nettement visible sur la photographie donnée par
BROADLEY (1971a : 87). Le bec rostral est beaucoup plus développé que chez la forme
nominative. C'est le représentant oriental du taxon R. oxyrhynchus."

Common Names Rufous Beaked Snake; Eastern Sharp-nosed Snake.

Corkill 1935: "It appears probable that this is the snake known in Western Kordofan to the Baggara as ABU HANAIG, that is, the " father of jaw." To the Nubas of Jebel Moro it is known as BINGIL at Tira Luman and PENNAIR at Acheron."
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Synonym Rhamphiophis rostratus PETERS 1854: 624
Rhamphiophis rostratus — PARKER 1932: 214
Rhamphiophis rostratus — LOVERIDGE 1936: 37
Rhamphiophis rostratus — BOGERT 1942
Rhamphiophis oxyrhynchus rostratus - LOVERIDGE 1957
Rhamphiophis oxyrhynchus rostratus — BROADLEY 1959, 1962
Rhamphiophis oxyrhynchus rostratus — AUERBACH 1987: 164
Rhamphiophis rostratus — LANZA 1988
Rhamphiophis rostratus — MEIRTE 1992
Rhamphiophis oxyrhynchus rostratus — BROADLEY & HOWELL 1991: 27
Rhamphiophis rostratus — SPAWLS et al. 2001
Rhamphiophis rostratus — BROADLEY et al. 2003
Rhamphiophis rostratus — BROADLEY et al. 2004
Rhamphiophis rostratus — CIMATTI 2005 
Distribution Republic of South Africa (E Transvaal), E Africa from S Sudan and Ethiopia to moazmbique, through Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, SE Zaire, Zimbabwe, Zambia (Zambezi and Luangwa valleys fide Broadley 1971);

Type locality: “Tette” [Mozambique]

Chirio & Ineich 1991: "DISTRIBUTION : Sud Soudan, Ethiopie, Somalie, Zaïre, Ouganda, Kenya, Tanzanie, Zambie, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Est Transvaal (République d'Afrique du Sud)."

Corkill 1935: "In the Sudan specimens have been secured from Kordofan Province."
 

Types Syntypes: ZMB 2484, 9994 
Description See the scalecountpage of Sean Thomas

Broadley 1959:
"Variation. (4 specimens.) Midbody scale rows 17; ventrals 165-186; anal divided; subcaudals 100-105; upper labials 8, the fifth entering the orbit; lower labials 10-12; the first four or five in contact with the aiiterior sublinguals; preoculars 3; post-oculars 2 ; temporals 2+3 ; 3+4. Tail length .29 to .31 of the total.
Colouration. Pale browii above, eaeh scale edged with darker browii. White below.
Size. Largest (NM/M.1817) 1280 (880+400) mm. from Mavurandona Mts."

Chirio & Ineich 1991: "Ce taxon se distingue de la forme nominative par sa couleur dorsale plutôt ivoire, rarement brun-rouge ou rosé et surtout par la bande sombre qui s'étend de la narine jusqu'en arrière de l'oeil. Cette bande est très nettement visible sur la photographie donnée par
BROADLEY (1971a : 87). Le bec rostral est beaucoup plus développé que chez la forme
nominative. C'est le représentant oriental du taxon R. oxyrhynchus."

And: "Le pourcentage de longueur de la queue par rapport à la longueur totale semble nettement
plus élevé que chez R. o. oxyrhynchus (tableau III)."

Habitat "An adult was observed in sandveld on the road between Xlekhane and Mungazi and was also recorded in this area by Broadley (1983)." (Pietersen 2013)

Broadley 1959 (Rhodesia): "Restricted to the dry sandveld at the lower altitudes."
 

Food Rufous Beaked Snakes are enthusiastic rodent feeders. They hunt their prey by burrowing, and when they find it, they kill by envenomation, and sometimes constriction. Captive specimens will do fine on F/T mice, appropriately sized. Wild Rostratus will prey upon rodents, lizards, small snakes, frogs and small birds. Juveniles will even eat insects. (Source)
Eaten by other snakes (particularly vine snakes), birds of prey (particularly secretary birds and snake eagles).

'Rhamphiophis Q. rostratus also takes day old chicks and small biri"s readily in captivity' (H.A.R. 15)

Size Adults average around four feet long, though there have been specimens documented over six feet.  (Source)
Behaviour

Typically these snakes are very easy to handle, seldom showing signs of aggression. Juveniles may hiss, but it's usually just a bluff. Another added bonus is they generally have a very good feeding response. They are curious and very alert. (Source)

Venom Reported envemonations are limited to swelling in the bite area, probably due to the person's specific allergy to the venom; no fatalaties have been reported, as their venom is of no real consequence to humans. (Source)

For scientific data about the venom: click here.

Reproduction Rufous Beaked Snakes can, under proper care, double their size within the first year of their life. They usually are sexually mature at 18 months. They are oviparous, laying 7 to 18 eggs in the midsummer. The young are typically around 12 inches.
Interesting stuff, R Rostratus experience an ontogenetic change from juvenile to adult; they hatch out either light gray, pinkish, or tan. They can also show a chain-link pattern, and reddish speckles or dots (not to be confused with Rhamphiophis rubropunctatus). As they mature, these juvenile patterns will disappear. This change usually happens when the snake is around 2 feet long. (Source)
Housing in captivity Housing is fairly simple. They typically do not have problems shedding, so no major attention to humidity is needed. Although a humid hide always helps with shedding, and of course can double as an egg laying hide. Large specimens need 2'L x 16"W x 6"H. Younger Rufous can be kept in 12"L x 6"W x 6"H. They can be kept well in racks, and on aspen bedding, although other substrates may be used. Of course, not pine or cedar (a friendly reminder to those who do not know). Provide at least two inches of bedding, as this snake is an avid burrower.
And of course temperature. Warm side of the cage around 86F and cool side around 78F. There doesn't need to be a drop at night. Of course these settings are geared more towards a rack setting. However in individual cages there will probably be a few degrees drop at night. That's fine. (Source)
 
References
  • 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
  • Branch, William R. 1993. A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Struik Publishers, 144 S.
  • 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. 1959. The herpetology of Southern Rhodesia. Part I--the snakes Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. Harvard 120 (1): 1-100 [reprint 1972]
  • 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.
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  • Chifundera, K. 1990. Snakes of Zaire and their bites. Afr. Stud. Monogr. (Kyoto) 10(3): 137-157.
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  • Chirio,L. & Ineich,I. 1991. 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
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