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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024







Speckle-bellied Keelback

Species : Rhabdophis chrysargos
Maximum Size : 98 cm

This wide-ranging keelback inhabits lowland and lower montane forests to around 1700 metres elevation. It is typically found near watercourses, but probably explores well beyond the confines of such habitats.

This snake has a body shape typical of keelbacks, being cylindrical in cross-section, moderately slender, and with a head distinct from its neck. The eyes are large and the pupils rounded.

Given the broad geographic range of the species, colouration may vary somewhat from place to place. Typically its body is brown to olive-brown, with numerous equally-spaced narrow bars. The bars are dark on top and pale on the flanks.

Its most distinctive feature is the backward-pointing pale chevron on the back of the neck, which may vary in colour from pale to reddish or orange-brown, and is edged with black.

The colour of its head may vary from orange-brown to grey to black.

Reportedly this snake feeds mainly on frogs.

On mainland Southeast Asia the Speckle-bellied Keelback occurs in Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Peninsular Malaysia. It has not been recorded from Singapore.

In insular Southeast Asia it occurs in Sumatra, Java, Bali, Borneo, Sulawesi (?), Flores and numerous small island groups. In the Philippines it occurs in the south, on the islands of Palawan and Balabac.

Outside the region it reportedly occurs in parts of China, including Hainan and Hong Kong.

Figs 1 and 2 : Specimen seen in a roadside drain at Fraser's Hill, Peninsular Malaysia at an elevation of around 1300 metres. In common with this specimen, another snake from the same locale also had a head which was uncommonly dark. Photos thanks to Morten Strange.

References : H12



Fig 1
ゥ  Morten Strange
Fig 2
ゥ  Morten Strange