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  Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
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Black-headed Collared Snake
   
   

Fig 1


Fig 2


Fig 3
 

Fig 4


Fig 5


 



 

Family : COLUBRIDAE
Species : Sibynophis melanocephalus
Maximum Size : 60 cm

Sibynophis melanocephalus is one of the more widespread species of the genus which, as of 2018, comprises 9 recognised species. In addition to the name 'Black-headed Collared Snake' it is also called 'Malayan Many-tooth Snake' and 'White-lipped Black-headed Snake'.

It occurs in lowland forest habitats, including freshwater swamp forest. It is fully terrestrial and diurnal in habits. In Singapore it is sometimes found as roadkill near areas of good forest: it appears to 'freeze' in the middle of the road if a vehicle is approaching, and as a consequence is at great risk of being crushed.

Snakes of the genus Sibynophis are known to use caudal autotomy as a defensive mechanism - if picked up by the tail the snake will gyrate wildly until the tail breaks and an escape can be made. The discarded portion of tail will continue to wriggle for many minutes in order to distract a predator, in the same manner as the discarded tails of some species of gecko.

There is some variability in colouration and patterning in this species. In the upper example shown here (Figs 1 and 2) the head is reddish, and the anterior part of the body is greyish with black bars and stripes. In the lower example (Figs 4 and 5) the head is black, and the body patterning comprises broken dark bars on an orange-striped background. In both examples, however, the supralabials (i.e. the scales above the lips) are white.

The diet of this snake appears to comprise mainly lizards (small skinks and agamids).

The Black-headed Collared Snake is known from southern Thailand, Vietnam, Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Sumatra (including the Riau Archipelago) and Borneo.


Figs 1 and 2 : Example with red head, from Johor, Peninsular Malaysia.

Fig 3 : Lowland secondary forest edge where the above example of Sibynophis melanocephalus was found.

Figs 4 and 5 : Example with black head found crossing a sealed road near Gunung Arong, Johor, Peninsular Malaysia.


References : H12, H14