Aspidelaps lubricus

Aspidelaps lubricus, commonly known as the Cape coral snake or the Cape coral cobra, is a species of venomous snake in the family Elapidae. The species is endemic to parts of southern Africa.[2]

Cape coral snake
Cape coral snake
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Genus: Aspidelaps
Species:
A. lubricus
Binomial name
Aspidelaps lubricus
blue – range of A. lubricus
green – range of A. scutatus
Synonyms[3]
  • Natrix lubrica
    Laurenti, 1768
  • Elaps lubricus
    Merrem, 1820
  • Naia somersetta
    A. Smith, 1826
  • Naja lubrica
    Schlegel, 1837
  • Aspidelaps lubricus
    — A. Smith, 1849

Geographic range and habitat

A. lubricus is found in regions of the Karoo, former Cape Province, and all the way up into Namibia. It mostly inhabits very arid regions, like deserts and rocky/sandy ecosystems. These areas within South Africa within the Karoo are known for low predictable rainfall and little vegetation, mostly shrubs and scrubs.[4]

Taxonomy

Subspecies Taxon author Common name Geographic range
A. l. lubricus (Laurenti, 1768)[1] Cape coral snake Cape Province, Orange Free State (South Africa)
A. l. cowlesi Bogert, 1940[1] Angolan coral snake Southern Angola, northern Namibia

Etymology

The subspecific name, cowlesi, is in honor of African-born American herpetologist Raymond Bridgman Cowles.[5]

Description

A. lubricus is a relatively small, slender bodied snake, around 1.6–2.0 ft (49–61 cm) in total length (including tail), with some growing up to 2.5 ft (76 cm) in some cases. The Cape coral snake is a small elapid, which means that it is a part of a family of venomous snakes that are usually found within tropical or sub-tropical regions around the globe. It has an enlarged rostral scale, which is the scale located at the front of the snout above the mouth opening on the snake. The head relative to the body is very short, making it very easy to distinguish it from the neck and rest of the snake. Colors range from red-orange to yellow, slightly resembling the coloration patterns seen on some corn snakes. The Cape coral snake has thick black rings along the length of the body, fully encircling on the body while not fully on the tail segment. There are around 20–47 total rings spanning the length of the snakes body. This species also contains a narrow hood right below the head, much like other cobras.[6]

Behaviour

A. lubricus is nocturnal, which means most of its activity and hunting occurs during the night. Since it generally prefers arid, rocky/sandy ecosystems, it will often be found living under rocks or even in burrows and tunnels. It has also been known to prefer leaving its burrow or hiding spots on cooler nights compared to the warmer nights in the summer.[7]

Diet

Since A. lubricus is nocturnal, it relies on smell and taste to hunt its prey. It typically leaves its burrow or hole in search of smaller vertebrates nearby. It preys specifically on lizards, but has also been known to hunt other vertebrates such as legless skinks, small rodents, and sometimes other snakes. It is also known to target those vertebrates which are strictly diurnal, which are sleeping when it is on the hunt. This snake is known to rear up towards prey or when threatened, and then strike, injecting its venom. In captivity, it is known to eat some types of fish, mice, small rats, and also chicken legs, which are preferred by the juveniles.[4]

Reproduction and life cycles

Not much information was found on A. lubricus in the wild, however there is reproduction data from captivity. In captivity, it is known to be exceptionally easy to breed. The breeding period starts in the winter, with the cooling down of winter temperatures. The snakes then increase their uptake of food to help cope with the extra energy needed to reproduce. If mating occurs at this time, the eggs will usually be laid in May or June. After that, there is a period of about 65 days before the eggs begin to hatch. There are usually between 3 and 11 eggs hatched per clutch, with sometimes multiple clutches per breeding period. Each hatchling can be around 17–18 cm (6.7–7.1 inches) in total length.[4]

Venom

Although A. lubricus has been kept in captivity, there is still little known information on the venom itself. There has been no information given about the toxicity or the composition of the venom. However, the venom has been noted as similar to that of the genus Naja, which contains all of the species of snakes known as true cobras. When venom has been taken in captivity, it yields around 27–71 mg of wet venom. The average yield is around 55 mg and is about 28% solid material. Previous studies have shown that in rats, this snake's venom caused neurological symptoms, which escalated into respiratory failure and eventually death.

Human fatalities have been recorded from bites by A. lubricus.[8]

Conservation status

As of 2015, the Cape coral snake is not listed as threatened or in need of conservation efforts. The main threat that is listed for this species is when crossing roads and highways, where vehicles can run over them.[9]

References

  1. "Aspidelaps lubricus (Laurenti, 1768)". The Reptile Database. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  2. "Aspidelaps lubricus". ITIS Standard Report Page. Integrated Taxonomic Information System. www.itis.gov. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  3. Boulenger GA (1896). Catalogue of the Snakes in the British Museum (Natural History). Volume III., Containing the Colubridæ (Opisthoglyphæ and Proteroglyphae) ... London: Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History). (Taylor and Francis, printers). xiv + 727 pp. + Plates I-XXV. (Aspidelaps lubricus, pp. 390-391).
  4. van der Ploeg, Harold. "Aspidelaps lubricus". aspidelaps.eu. Archived from the original on 2015-06-01. Retrieved 2015-04-29.
  5. Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. (Aspidelaps lubricus cowlesi, pp. 60-61).
  6. "Branson's Wild World – Namibian Coral Cobra". Branson's Wild World.
  7. "WCH Clinical Toxinology Resources". toxinology.com.
  8. Branch (2004).
  9. "SCARCE HOME". sun.ac.za.

Further reading

  • Branch, Bill (2004). Field Guide to Snakes and other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Third Revised edition, Second impression. Sanibel Island, Florida: Ralph Curtis Books. 399 pp., 112 color plates. ISBN 0-88359-042-5. (Aspidelaps lubricus, pp. 103–104 + Plates 20 & 26).
  • Laurenti JN (1768). Specimen medicum, exhibens synopsin reptilium emendatam cum experimentis circa venena et antidota reptilium austriacorum. Vienna: Joan. Thom. Nob. de Trattnern. 214 pp. + Plates I-V. (Natrix lubrica, new species, p. 80). (in Latin).
  • Spawls, Stephen; Branch, Bill (1995). The Dangerous Snakes of Africa: Natural History, Species Directory, Venoms, and Snakebite. Dubai: Oriental Press: Ralph Curtis-Books. ISBN 0-88359-029-8.
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