Herpetology of Ethiopia and Eritrea


Our records => Atractaspidinae Günther, 1858



The systematic position of these snakes is unclear. Atractaspididae was long time ranked as a subfamily of Viperidae, in recently is separated as family and in phylogenetic concept is ranked much closed to family Elapidae. Under the family we know two subfamilies. Atractaspidinae and Aparallactinae (Aparallactinae are sometimes ranked into family Colubridae!). Their origins is in Africa and representatives of both subfamilies we can be found in Ethiopia. These snakes live very hiden, activated mainly at night and do not reach large sizes. All are actively toxic. The snakes of subfamily Atractaspidinae however anatomically significantly different from other venomous snakes by structure of poison apparatus. In proportion to the skull have very large hollow fangs and atypical connection with skull allows them tipping out from the closed mouth. This adaptation allows them to bite prey in narrow underground tunnels where hunting their prey, particularly young rodents (although Shine et al. (2006) argues that mammals make up only 25% of the diet, another reptiles - lizards, Amphisbaenidae, and small snakes - applies to A.engaddensis in Israel). Poison gland reaching in certain types up to 1/3 of the body length. They have a very powerful poison called sarafotoxin (N27 C103 H147 Ø37 S5) Aparallactinae - genus Aparallactus is smaller snakes, which are specialized for hunting centipedes. Snakes of the genus Micrelaps are food specialists on small lizards. Center of their expansion is East and Central Africa, one species extending to the Middle East.

Atractaspis engdahli LÖNNBERG & ANDERSSON, 1913


Short description:
Total length 415 mm.; tail 23 mm. Head very flat, depressed; snout broad and rounded. Portion of rostral visible from above measuring abouta third its distance from the frontal; suture between the internasals slightly shorter than that between praefrontals; frontal a little broader than long, about equal to its distance from the end of the snout, much shorter than the parietals. Eye very small about equal in size to the nostril which is pierced between two nasails, the anterior of which is larger. One praeocular and one postocular. Temporals 1 + 2, the anterior situated below the postooular and wedged in between fourth and fifth labials; the upper posterior temporal in contact with the postocular (in one specimen very narrowly). Six upper labials, the fourth much the largest, in contact with the praeocular, the eye and the postocular. First lower labials entirely separated by the symphysial being in contact with the large chin-shields; three infralabials in contact with the chin-shields; fourth infra-labial very large. Scales in 19 rows. Ventrals 224—232; anal divided; subcaudals in two rows forming 19—22 pairs. Tail especially in the largest specimen thick, and bluntly pointed in the younger. Uniform dark brown or black above, a little paler below. This species is very easily recognized by its divided anal and subcaudals, six upper labials the fourth of which alone enters the eye, 19 rows of scales, the first pair of lower labials not meeting behind the symphysial. [Andersson]

Distribution:
Northeastern Kenya and southern Somalia, perhaps southern Ethiopia on the Juba River basin. The type locality Kysmayu, Somalia.

Biology:
Terrestrial snake, which spend most of his life underground. Nocturnal. As other species of the genus, feed mostly youngs of rodents and small lizards and other snakes. Poorly known species.

Description original:
Lönnberg, E. and Andersson, L.G. 1913. On a collection of reptiles from Kismayu Arkiv för Zoologi 8: 1-6




Atractaspis irregularis REINHARDT 1843

A.irregularis - Sheikh Hussein, Ethiopia
A.irregularis - Sheikh Hussein, Ethiopia

Short description:
In the family is this medium-large species, maximum length is about 50 cm. Body oval, tail short, 5-8% of the total length. Scales smooth. 23-27 midbody scale rows , 213-263 ventrals, anal shield divided, subcaudalia paired 24-32, in males is their number higher. Colour black or black-brown, scales opalescend. Ethiopian specimens showing this folidose parameters: Midbody scale rows 23-25, ventrals in the males 231 to 238 and 257 in the females, subcaudals 24 the males and 27 the females. From Eritrea is known subspecies Atractaspis irregularis angeli LAURENT, 1950, from the eastern slope of Mount Bizen (sacred mountain of the Eritrean Orthodox Church). This shows folidose parameters: 21-23 midbody scale rows , 252-253 ventrals, subcaudals 28 to 30.

Distribution:
Guinea, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo - Belgian, N Angola, Eritrea (Mount Bizen), Ethiopia, Kenya, NE Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, S Sudan, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Gambia
In Ethiopia, west and east of the Rift Valley (Didessa river bridge, Omo river 58 km northeast of Sodo, Sheik Hussein).

Biology:
They lives secretly, underground in rodent burrows and under rocks or trunks. They were found on the surface only sporadically. Mostly at night after rain. The female lays about 6 elongated eggs. Feeds small rodents and lizards.

Note:
Potentially dangerous species. This snake bites very quickly and often several times. Poison is effective and dangerous, especially for young children but also for adults. To the bite occurs most frequently at night during sleeping, or when somebody walking barefoot in the night.
I was bitten several times to hands. The symptoms of snake bite poisoning i observed three days; there is a intensive painful, swelling, and increased heart rate.

Description original:
Reinhardt, J. T.: Beskrivelse af nogle nye Slangearter. Danske Vidensk. Selsk. Afhandl. 10: 233-279.

Common english name: Variable Burrowing Asp

Atractaspis irregularis angeli - type locality, Mt.Bizen, Nefasit, Eritrea



Atractaspis leucomelas BOULENGER 1895


Short distribution:
This specimen measures 250 mm, approximately, overall, has 23 midbody scale rows, 230 ventrals and 29 subcaudals; otherwise it agrees so closely, both in head shields and colour pattern, with the original description that this might have been prepared from it; the only observed differences are in the temporal region where there is a single large scale between the postocular and the fifth upper labial (2 in the figure of the type) and in the presence of a broad black bar across the throat. It was captured by day in a region of sandy soil, with patches of grass and stunted thorn. It appears to be the second recorded example of this very distinctively marked species; for reasons that are given below it is probable that the viper from Gardo, doubtfully referred to as leucomelas by Scortecci (1931, p. 214), really represents a distinct species [According to PARKER].
This species is known only from two specimens from the Ethiopian Ogaden near Ethio-Djibouti-Somali border. Medium-sized species. Six subralabials, subcaudalia undivided. 23 scales midbody rows, ventrals 230 in male, and 243 in female, subcaudalia 29 male, and 27 female. The head creamy, on top dark, the dorsum black with a white or cream vertebral band, white collar on the neck.

Distribution:
Southeast Ethiopia, the somali arid zone. Occurrence in Somalia has not confirmed but it is probable.

Biology:
Behavior of this species unknown, can be not different from other members of the genus. Terrestrial snake. Most of his life spent underground, in burrows or under rocks. They feed small prey, as lizards, small mammals and snakes.

Description original:
Boulenger,G.A.: Rettili e Batraci. in, Esplorazione del Guiba e dei suoi Affluenti compeuta dal Cap. V. Bottego durante gli Anni 1892-93 sooto gli auspicii della Società Geografica Italiana. Annali Mus. civ. Stor. nat. Giacomo Doria (2) 15: 9-18

Common english name: Ogaden Burrowing Asp




Atractaspis magrettii SCORTECCI 1928

Atractaspis microlepidota magrettii SCORTECCI, 1928

Short description:
The color and size as well as A.microlepidota. Midbody scale rows 25 to 29. Hemipenis reaching to 16 subcaudale. From A.microlepidota is different also by length ratios of praefrontale and internasale (1.1 to 1.5), A.microlepidota 1.0.

Distribution:
Eritrea, Ethiopia and northern Somalia (Somaliland). B.M. 19,492.34. female juv., Sc. 25; V. 236, C. 28 - Haude, 46 ° E - 8 ° 20 'N, 640 m. B.M. 19,492.35. male, Sc. 27; V. 240, C. 34 - Haude, 46 ° E - 8 ° 2O 'N; 640 m. B.M. 19,492.36. female, Sc. 29; V. 251, C. 31 - Haude, 46 ° E - 8 ° 2o 'N, 640 m. B.M. 19,492.37. male, Sc. 29; V. 246, C. 30 - Haude, 45 ° 20 'E - 8 ° 15' N 822 m.

Biology:
It inhabits arid shrubland area. He lives secretly as other species of the genus. They hunt small mammals and lizards. Females lay eggs. Activity mainly crepuscular to nocturnal.

Description original:
Scortecci,G. 1929. Rettili dell'Eritrea esistenti nelle Collezioni del Museo Civico de Milano. Atti della Società Italiana di Scienze Naturali, e del Museo Civico di Storia Naturale, Milano 67 (3-4): 290-339 [also cited as pp. 33-36 and as from 1928]

Common english name: Magretti’s Burrowing Asp




Atractaspis micropholis GÜNTHER 1872


Short description:
Black above, lighter below. Body stout. Ventrals 210; subcaudals 29. Scales in twentyfive series. Two pairs of frontals. One prse and one postocular. Six upper labials, the third and fourth of which enter the orbit, and are much larger than the anterior and posterior pairs. Temporals 1 or 2+3, all small, scale-like, the anterior in contact with the postocular, fourth and fifth labials, but not with the occipital. Lower labials small, the anterior in contact with each other in front of the chin-shields, which do not enter the labial magin [According to GÜNTHER].
A smalle snake. Length of type specimens is 330 mm. Tail length 25 mm. The color of dorsal side dark, belly bright. Ventrals 210, subcaudals 29, Midbody scale rows 25, 1 preoculare, 1 postoculare. Six supralabials, third and fourth in contact to the eye. Temporale 1 or 2 + 3, small, in front in contact with postoculare and fourth and fifth labials, but not contact occipitale. Infralabials small.

Distribution:
Type locality unknown. Occurence includes the Sahel region of Africa, from Senegal, Gambia and Mali through Mauritania, northern Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Kenya. Probably, Oman (?) and Saudi Arabia (?).

Biology:
Poorly known species. It inhabits mostly dry savanna and semi-desert of Sub-Saharan Africa. Terrestrial snake. As other species of the genus.

Description original:
Günther,A.: Seventh account of new species of snakes in the collection of the British Museum. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (4) 9: 13-37

Common english name: Sahel Burrowing Asp



Atractaspis scorteccii PARKER 1949


Short description:
Specimen 1949.2.3.9, the holotype of the name A.scorteccii, possesses 25 rows of scales at the middle of the body, has 218 ventrals and 33 subcaudals; it measures approximately 840 mm overall, the tail being 75 mm. The snout is very prominent, the rostral being cuneiform and extending backwards in wedge-fashion between the internasals. The suture between the prefrontals is 1.5 times as long as that between the internasals, and the portion of the rostral visible from above is as long as its distance from the frontal; this latter shield is 1.36 times as long as broad, 1.39 times as long as its distance from the tip of the rostral and 1.2 times as long as the parietal. There are seven upper labials, of which the fourth is the largest and the only one to enter the orbit, being also in contact with the pre- and post-oculars; the fifth is divided by a horizontal suture. Temporals are 2 + 3 and the first lower labials are in contact behind the mental. The upper surfaces are dark brownish black (this colour extending to the outer edges of the ventral and subcaudal scutes) except for a broad white collar behind the parietals; lower surfaces white, very heavily dusted and mottled with dark brown except the chin and throat which are immaculate white. In addition, specimen 1949.2.3.10 has the fifth upper labial divided by an oblique, instead of a horizontal, suture so that the labial is relatively high and reaches the postocular. The colour is constantly of the same character, the only variation noted being in the intensity of the dark stippling of the lower surfaces. In the male paratype the venom gland extends backwards to the level of the 29th ventral and the penis to the 10th subcaudal [According to PARKER].
This species known only from a few specimens from Somaliland and from Ethiopian Ogaden. Its very close to A.leucomelas. The color of the dorsal side dark brownish, on the neck transverse white band. Belly white or creamy, and diffusely marked with numerous irregularly dark spots. Length up to 90 cm. Poison gland reach to 29 ventrale, hemipenis reach to 10 subcaudale. Folidosis parameters: Mbr 23-25, ventrals 215-218 in males and 216-230 in females, subcaudalia 33-34 in males and 30-34 in females.

Distribution:
Northern Somalia and eastern Ethiopia (Haud, Degeh Bur).

Biology:
Behavior of the species is unknow.

Description original:
Parker,H.W.: The snakes of Somaliland and the Sokotra islands. Zool. Verh. Leiden 6: 1-115

Common english name: Somali Burrowing Asp




Atractaspis fallax PETERS 1867


Short description:
The largest specimen was measured 925 mm (75 mm tail), averaged lenght about 700 mm. Midbody scale rows 27-37, ventrals 228-252, subcaudals 27-35.

Distribution:
Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya.

Biology:
Terrestrial snake. Like other species of the genus spend life in burrows and ground cracks or moves slowly under rocks and trunks. Onto the surface craw at night particularly in wet weather. They hunt small rodents, lizards and snakes. Oviparous.

Description original:
Peters, Wilhem Carl Hartwig: Eine vorläufige Übersicht der aus dem Nachlass des Baron Carl von der Decken Stammenden und auf seiner Ostafrikanischen Reise gesammelten Säugethiere und Amphibien. Monatsber. königl. Akad. Wiss. Berlin. 1866 (December): 884-892

Common english name: Peters’ Burrowing Asp




Atractaspis watsoni BOULENGER, 1908

Short description:
Snout very short, feebly prominent. Portion of rostral visible from above half as long as its distance from the frontal; suture between the internasals shorter than that between the praafrontals; frontal as long as broad, longer than its distance from the end of the snout, as long as the parietals; one prae and one postocular; temporals small, 2+3; six upper labials, third and fourth largest, fourth bordering the eye; first lower labial in contact with its follow behind the symphysial ; three lower labials in contact with the chin-shields. Scales in 29 rows. Ventrals 222; anal entire; subcaudals 29, mostly single (last 8 paired). Uniform black. Total length 570 mm.; tail 45. A single female specimen from Sokoto, Upper Niger, presented by Mr. C. F. Watson [According to BOULENGER].
Cinq gulaires en contact avec les mentonnières. Quatrième labiale supérieure habituellement seule en contact avec l’oeil ; si la troisième labiale supérieure touche également l’oeil, ce contact est étroit ou ponctuel. 27 à 31 rangs dorsaux (rarement 27, sauf au Burkina Faso), 213 à 242 ventrales, 21 à 30 sous-caudales. Coloration dorsale noirâtre. Le rapport de la longueur de la frontale sur la longueur de la jonction médiane des deux pariétales (LF/LP) varie de 2,1 à 3,5 (moyenne: 2,8) [TRAPE et al. in original].
FMNH specimen from Harssi Bari?, Ethiopia: Midbody scale-rows 29; ventrals 243; anal entire; subcaudals 32; labials 6, only the fourth entering the orbit; fourth lower labial largest. Total length 663 (610+53) mm. In the last citation given above reasons are advanced for placing certain species in the synonymy of microlepidota [LOVERIDGE].

Distribution:
Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroun, Tchad, Central African Republic, Sudan, W Ethiopia and W Eritrea. Western slopes of Ethiopian highlands and savanas along the Sudanese border towards to Eritrea (Gambella - ETH, Akordat - ERI, Tessenei - ERI).

Biology:
Like other members of the genus. Female lays 8-10 oblongate eggs. Nocturnal.

Note:
A.microlepidota have very long poison glands, up to 12 cm, and the amount of the poison 10 mg. The lethal dose for humans is 10 to 12 mg. Deaths are rare but a bite is very painful.

Description original:
Boulenger, GEORGE A. 1908. Description of three new snakes from Africa. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (8) 2: 93-94 -

Common english name: Watson’s Burrowing Asp




Aparallactus jacksonii GÜNTHER, 1888

Aparallactus jacksonii - Yabello, Ethiopia

Short description:
A Small ground snake reaching lengths up to 30 cm. Head above black , neck with transverse black broad band. Body color gray-brown, brown, gray, or reddish brown. Tail from 13 to 20% of the total body length. Scales smooth. Mbr 15, ventralia 134-166, anal plate single, unpaired subcaudalia 33 - 52.
This species also is very closely allied to Uriechis capensis [Aparallactus capensis]. Scales in fifteen rows. Ventral scutes 150; subcaudals 39. Head rather narrow, depressed. Praaocular short, two postoculars. Temporals 1+2, the anterior in contact with the postoculars; seven upper labials, of which the third and fourth enter the orbit, and none of which are in contact with the occipitals. Mentale short, the lower labials of the first pair forming a suture together in the median line. Light olive-coloured, the upper part of the head and of the neck and also the labials below the eye black; a pair of white spots behind the occiput. A narrow black line runs along the vertebral series of scales. Lower parts uniform whitish.
A single young specimen, 7½ inches long, was discovered by F. J. Jackson, Esq., at the foot of Kilima-ndjaro [Günther in original].

Distribution:
Ethiopia, N Tanzania, S Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda
In Ethiopia south (Dolo Odo, Arba Minch, Yabello).

Biology:
Terrestrial small snake. Hunts and eats exclusivelly centipedes. Only this species of the genus givebirth 1-2 youngs. Ovovivipar.

Description original:
Günther,A.: Contribution to the knowledge of snakes of tropical Africa. Ann. Mag. nat. Hist. (6) 1: 322-335

Common english name: Jackson’s centipede-eater




Aparallactus lunulatus (PETERS, 1854)


Short description:
A small snake, the maximum length 52 cm, average 30 to 40 cm. Tail 20-28% of total length. Head short , eyes small and dark, pupil round . On the neck dark dorsal blotch. Body color brown, gray, scales pale on edge. Head brown, or yellow. Scales smooth. Mbr 15, ventralia 140-176, anal plate single, unpaired subcaudalia 43 - 67.
U.lunulatus n.sp.; supra olivaceo-viridis, squamis in basi fuscomaculatis; subtus ex flavo virescens. Squ.ser.long. 15; caudae 7 ad 3.
Scuta abd. 458+1; caudae 58.
Long. tota 0,415; cap. 0,014; caudae 0,090.
— Tette. Nom.indig. bubse.
[PETERS in original as Uriechis lunulatus]

Distribution:
Zimbabwe, S Mozambique, NE Republic of South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, W/C/N Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire), Ghana to Eritrea, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Somalia, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Botswana, Tanzania.
In Ethiopia, east and north of the Rift Valley (Dolo Odo, Awash, Dire Dawa, Tekeze river) north to Eritrea.

Biology:
Ground snake, crawls burrows and cavities under rocks or tree trunks and hunt centipedes. Females lays 2-4 eggs in size 30 x 5 mm.

Description original:
Peters,W.C.H.: Diagnosen neuer Batrachier, welche zusammen mit der früher (24. Juli und 17. August) gegebenen Übersicht der Schlangen und Eidechsen mitgetheilt werden. Ber. Bekanntmach. Geeignet. Verhandl. Königl.-Preuss. Akad. Wiss. Berlin 1854: 614-628

Common english name: Reticulated Centipede Eater

Aparallactus lunulatus - habitat, N of Debark, NW Ethiopia




Micrelaps vaillanti (MOCQUARD, 1888)
syn.Micrelaps boettgeri (BOULENGER, 1896)

Micrelaps vaillanti - Neghelle Borana, Ethiopia
Micrelaps vaillanti - Neghelle Borana, Ethiopia

Short description:
A small snake, which reaches up to 500 mm, on average less, to 350 mm. The dorsum brown, black or greysh, the dorsal scales with apical light spot. Two lower rows of dorsals usually quite bright. Upper area of the head and neck dark brown or black, sometimes, in young individuals, separated by light transverse stripe. Second pair of inframaxilars in contact. The fifth supralabiale usually in contact with the parietale. The tail 9-15% of total lenght. The scales smooth, 15 midbody scale rows, ventralia 196 - 251, the anal scute divided, 17-30 subcaudalia paired. Postoculare 1, temporale 1+1, supralabialia 7, the third and fourth supralabiale, rarely fifth in contact with eye, the fifth usually in contact with parietale, infralabialia 7, sometimes 6, rarely 8.
Dorsum brown or greyish, each scale usually with a central or apical pale spot, two lower rows of dorsals usually entirely pale; upper surface of head and neck dark brown or black, sometimes separated by a pale collar in juveniles. First pair of infralabials in contact behind mental. Posterior pair of chin-shields usually in contact. Fifth supralabial often in contact with parietal. Snout index 0.4-1.0; internasal/prefrontal index 0.2-1.0; frontal/ supraocular index 1.4-2.3. A loreal is present on the right side in a single specimen; postoculars invariably 1; temporals 1+1; supralabials 7, third and fourth, rarely fifth (type vaillanti) entering eye, fifth usually in contact with parietal; infralabials 7 (sometimes 6, rarely 8), 4 (rarely 3) on each side in contact with the anterior chin-shield; chin-shields in two pairs, the posterior ones usually in contact; preventrals 1-2. Dorsal scales smooth, without apical pits, in 15-15-15 rows. Ventrals rounded, 170-224 in ♂♂, 195-253 in ♁♁; anal divided (entire in a single specimen); subcaudals in pairs, 23-30+1 in ♁♁, 18-25+1 in ♂♂. [RASMUSSEN]

Distribution:
E Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda
In Ethiopia, east and center (Harar, Ogo, Awash).

Biology:
it Lives underground in burrows, under rocks, ..etc. Nokturnal activity. Females lays about 6 eggs. They feed mainly scinks and another small ground lizards.

Description original:
Boulenger,G.A.: A list of the reptiles and batrachians collected by the late Prince Eugenio Ruspoli in Somaliland and Gallaland in 1893. Annali Mus. civ. Stor. nat. Genova, Giacomo Doria, (2) 17: 5-14 [11]

Common english name: Somali Two-headed Snake

Micrelaps vaillanti - habitat, S of Neghelle Borana, S Ethiopia





















































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