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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2021



Painted Keelback

Species : Tropidonophis picturatus
Maximum Size : 58 cm

The Painted Keelback appears to be the smallest species of the keelback genus Tropidonophis on the island of New Guinea, measuring no more than 58 cm total length.

The image presented here is identified as a Painted Keelback on the basis of its brown colour, moderately robust body, the distinctive light and dark bars on the nape, the pale labial scales and the dark stripe behind the large eye.

The tail in this species is thick and comprises around 25% of the total length of the snake.

Frogs appear to comprise part of the diet of this snake, but little else is known of its ecology.

It inhabits hilly to montane areas from 200 metres to 1500 metres or so in elevation, and occurs in both the Indonesian province of Papua, and the country of Papua New Guinea to the east (but is absent from New Britain).

Fig 1 : Specimen of around 25 cm total length from Kaintiba, Gulf Province, Papua New Guinea at an elevation of around 600 metres. Kaintiba lies in a forested valley, fringed by mountains of up to 1800 metres elevation. The snake was of a calm temperament. 

Fig 2 : Landscape view of habitat at Kaintiba, comprising montane forest and clearings in the valley floor. The snake was found near an aircraft landing strip.

Photos thanks to Mark Helzerman.

References : H6

Malnate E. V., Underwood G. 1988. Australasian natricine snakes of the genus Tropidonophis. Proceedings of the academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. 140 (1) : 59-201


Fig 1
ゥ  Mark Helzerman
Fig 2
ゥ  Mark Helzerman