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Cave Dwelling Snake
   
   

Family : COLUBRIDAE
Species : Orthriophis taeniurus (Elaphe taeniura)
Maximum Size : 2.7 metres

This impressive snake has many different names, depending on which subspecies is being referred to: common names include Cave Dwelling Snake, Cave Racer and Beauty Snake. Between 7 and 9 subspecies are recognised, of which around half occur in Southeast Asia.

Featured here are two subspecies with strikingly different colours - Orthriophis taeniurus grabowskyi from Sumatra, which is a slaty grey colour, and Orthriophis taeniurus ridleyi from Peninsular Malaysia, which is brownish.

Its body is moderately robust, and of muscular appearance, and its head is elongated and wider than its neck. Its eyes are moderate in size.

This impressive snake is both diurnal and nocturnal, and is mainly terrestrial in habits (but is a skilled climber too). It is known to range from lowland habitats to around 2100 metres elevation. In addition to forested habitats it is also found in rocky areas, and it makes use of caves (if present) for shelter and to hunt prey.

Its diet comprises small mammals and, in cave settings, swiftlets and bats. Whilst non-venomous, this snake is known to be highly defensive and will readily strike and inflict a painful bite if approached too closely.

Orthriophis taeniurus is widespread and is documented from northeast India, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China (including Taiwan), Korea, Japan (Ryukyu Islands), Peninsular Malaysia (including Tioman Island), and the islands of Sumatra and Borneo.

In Singapore, there are no unequivocal records, and the species is listed as 'indeterminate'.


Figs 1 to 3 : Example of Orthriophis taeniurus grabowskyi ('Sumatran Rat Snake') from the rim of Bukit Kaba volcano (elevation 1900 metres), southwest Sumatra, Indonesia. This subspecies, which can reach 2 metres in length, also occurs in Borneo.

Fig 4 : Example from a cave in Taman Negara, Pahang, Peninsular Malaysia. Photo thanks to Kelvin Lim.


References : H10, H12, H21


 
  Figs 1 to 3 photos thanks to
Joshua Kegg, Wild Sumatra.



 

Fig 1
 
ゥ  Joshua Kegg
Fig 2
 
ゥ  Joshua Kegg
Fig 3
 
ゥ  Joshua Kegg
Fig 4
 
ゥ  Kelvin Lim