Herpetology of Ethiopia and Eritrea


Boidae Gray, 1825



Eryx somalicus SCORTECCI 1939


Short description:
A small snake, total lenght about 250 - 300 mm, the body cylindrical, tail is very short and tapering. The head small, no distinct neck. Eyes small, but in proportion to the size of the head larger than in the G.colubrinus. Rostrum large and exceeding lower jaw, from above is round but from lateral view sharp. The number of scales between the eyes 5 - 6, the number of scales around the eye 9-11, midbody scale rows 34 - 40. The basic colour of the dorsal surface is some shade of brown with about thirty transverse or semi-oblique whitish bands, sometimes with dark margins. The belly is whitish, sometimes spotted with small spots of dark colour or with larger rounded dark patches, usually aligned with a dorsal bar
Dorsal head scales more or less enlarged, smooth, juxtaposed as far as eye level, imbricate backwards; scales between the anterior level of eyes and postnasal larger than in E.borrii, their minimum number along the middle region of the snout 1.75 (vs 3 in E.borrii, see below); rostral large and broad, about 2 times wider than high, with a labial angular horizontal edge; nostril surrounded mostly by 2 scales only (internasal-prenasal complex and postnasal), since the internasal is usually fused with prenasal bilaterally; eye separated from the labials by 1 scale; 2-3 scales between the postnasal and the eye; 8-10 supralabials; 11-12 scales between the mental and the first pseudoventral; mental groove absent; body scales smooth anteriorly, becoming increasingly keeled distad; tail scales strongly keeled; 34-40 mid-body scales; ventrals (wider than long system) 156-163, dowling system 155-158; anale entire; 21-25 single subcaudals; tail short, about 8-10.5% the total length, conical, pointed, sometimes more or less curved downward at tip. Size seemingly small; the ratio total length/maximum transverse diameter 24.03-30.00 (n = 4); the largest specimen has a total length of 390 mm. GANS & LAURENT (1965), referring to the unsexed specimen MCZ R 72038 from Mogadishu, pointed out that «there is both increase and reduction of dorsal scale rows, as well as the intercalation of additional scales within the dorsal rows. The latter occurs commonly in the second and third lateral rows, and the additional scales are found in all rows dorsal to the row in question.
Colouration: Pattern rather variable. Dorsal ground colour light to rather dark brown, crossed by about 30 off-white, sometimes dark-edged, transverse to more or less oblique stripes, each approximately 1-6 scales long; some of the light stripes may fuse with each other forming Y or X shaped marks. Furthermore the back is finely dark-striped longitudinally, since each dark scale is off-white medially. Lower parts of the flanks off-white with dark, irregular small spots and sometimes with a series of brownish black, larger roundish spots, each usually underlying a light dorsal stripe [according LANZA, NISTRI].

Distribution:
Somalia and certainly also the adjacent parts of eastern Ethiopia.

Note:
Poorly known species. It is found in arid and semi-arid regions at altitudes up to at least 1,150 m asl. It inhabits areas of scrubland, dry open woodland and sandy areas with grass clumps and scattered Acacia trees. It is also present in sandy and rocky areas near the coast. They mostly hide by day under stones, in crevices or in shallow burrows. They feed on mammals, lizards and birds, usually lying in wait hidden in the sand with just their eyes and snout above the surface. These snakes are ovoviviparous, the female brooding a clutch of eggs internally until they hatch after four or five months.

Description original:
Scortecci ,G.: Spedizione zoologica del Marchese Saverio patrizi nel Basso Giuba e nell'Oltre Giuba. Giugno-agosto 1934. XII. Rettili Ofidi. Annali Mus. civ. Stor. nat. Gacomo Doria 58: 263-291

Common english name: Somali Sand Boa




Eryx borrii LANZA & NISTRI, 2005

Short description:
Dorsal head scales enlarged, smooth, juxtaposed as far as eye level, imbricate backwards; scales between the anterior level of eyes and postnasal smaller than in E. somalicus, their minimum number along the middle region of the snout 3; rostral large and broad, about 2.5 times wider than high, with a labial angular horizontal edge; nostril surrounded by 2 scales only (postnasal and a scale deriving from the fusion of internasal and prenasal, seemingly only partially fused on the right side); 5 interorbital and 10/10 circumorbital scales; eye separated from the labials by 1/1 scale; 3/3 scales between the postnasal and the eye; 10/11 supralabials; 12 scales between the mental and the first pseudoventral; mental groove absent; body scales smooth anteriorly, becoming increasingly keeled distad; tail scales strongly keeled; 39 mid-body scales; ventrals (wider than long system) 193, Dowling system 189; anal entire; 26 single subcaudals; tail short, about 8.25% the total length, conical, pointed, slightly curved downward at tip. Body slender, the ratio total length/maximum transverse diameter about 39.35; total length of 390 mm. Maxillary and mandibular teeth solid, ungrooved, arranged in an anonodont and scaphiodont set; about 8-9 maxillary and mandibular teeth; palatine and pterygoid not counted.
Dorsal ground colour brown, lighter on head and sides of body, with longitudinal or more or less oblique off-white fragmented stripes, sometimes fused to form undulating narrow bands. Lower parts of the flanks off-white with dark, irregular small spots and sometimes with a series of brownish black, larger roundish spots [according to LANZA, NISTRI].

Distribution:
Northern Somalia (Somaliland) and its known only from the type locality Biji from the West Galbeed, located about 150 km from the Ethiopian border. Occurrence in Ethiopia is possible.

Note:

Behavior of this species not known. Probably as Eryx somalicus.

Description original:
Lanza, B.; Nistri, A. Somali Boidae (genus Eryx Daudin 1803) and Pythonidae (genus Python Daudin 1803) (Reptilia Serpentes). Tropical Zoology 18 (1): 67-136.





Eryx colubrinus LINNAEUS 1758

Eryx colubrinus
Eryx colubrinus - Negelle Borana, Ethiopia

Short description:
A rather larger species of the genus. Adult female specimens are rarely more than 91 cm in length. The number of scales between the eyes 9-12. The color may consist of a yellow or orange coloration overlaid with dark brown splotches, but there is also known reddish-brown or brown color phase (see picture above). The belly is white or cream colored. E.c.colubrinus in Ethiopia 44-50 Mbr , 175 - 197 ventrals , while G.c.loveridgei Mbr 50-59, 162 - 185 ventrals.

Dorsal head scales small and smooth, imbricate, only the nasals and internasals enlarged; rostral large and broad, about 2.5 times wider than high, with a labial angular horizontal edge; nostril surrounded by 3 scales (a large internasal, a medium-sized prenasal and a slightly smaller postnasal); 9-15 interorbital (usually 10-12) and 11-16 (usually 13-14) circumorbital scales; eye separated from the labials by 1-3 rows of scales, usually 2; 4-7 scales between the nasal and the eye, usually 5; 11-15 supralabials, usually 13-14; approximately 19-21 small lower labials; 13-23 scales between the mental and the first pseudoventral, usually 15- 17; mental groove absent or, according to BOULENGER (1893) and ANDERSON (1898), rarely present (never seen by us). Body scales smooth or more or less keeled anteriorly, becoming increasingly keeled distad, strongly carinate on the posterior third to fifth of the trunk; supracaudal scales strongly keeled; from 43 (39 according to MOCQUARD 1888, and CHIPPAUX 2001) to 61 midbody scales; ventrals (wider than long system) from 162-(159 according to MOCQUARD 1888) to 205; anal entire, very rarely divided; subcaudals 19-30, normally single, sometimes some of them paired (each pair counted as one subcaudal); tail short (usually 7-9% of total length), conical, more or less pointed. Total length approaching 1 m in the females (BARKER & BARKER 2002) [800 mm (745 + 55 mm) in a female from Hargeisa, southern Somalia (HOEVERS & JOHNSON 1982; Hoevers’ unpublished notes)]. The males, more slender and considerably smaller than females, have a relatively longer tail (about 8-11% of total length; ♁♁ 7-10) and longer spurs which become progressively larger with age; according to WALLS (1998b), in some females the spurs may be completely hidden under scales and hard to find [according to LANZA, NISTRI].

Distribution:
Found in northern Africa from Egypt as far west as Niger, including Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, and northern Tanzania. In Ethiopia, from south to north in suitable semiarid and warm areas of the Rift Valley and in southern and eastern parts.

Note:
It inhabit semi-desert and scrub savannahs and rock outcroppings. Prefers sandy, friable soil. During the hotter times of the year, they seek refuge beneath stones and in the burrows of small mammals. These snakes spend most of their time in shallow burrows with only their head exposed. They feed on small mammals that are quickly seized when passing within striking range and killed by constriction. Ovovivipar. The females birth averaging 10-20 babies. The young at birth typically are 20–25 cm in length.

Description original:
Linnaeus, C.: Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata. Laurentii Salvii, Holmiæ. 10th Edition: 824 pp.

Described as Anguis colubrina

Common english name: Kenya Sand Boa

Eryx colubrinus - habitat, Wachile, S Ethiopia



Python sebae (GMELIN 1789)


Short description:
Africa's largest snake species, and one of the world's largest snakes. The longest individual measured almost 800 cm, However, the average size is between 4-5 m. Males are typically smaller than females. Head subtriangular, elongate, flattened, well distinct from the neck; snout narrowly rounded. Body slender in juveniles, becoming more and more stout with age, slightly depressed in the big animals, otherwise cylindrical The dorsal scales smooth; eye moderate, obliquely positioned as seen in dorsal view and much exposed; pupil vertically elliptic, readly distinguishable in live specimens; iris brownish. Two subrectangular internasals 1.5 times as long as broad or a little shorter, followed by a pair of large anterior prefrontals and a pair of smaller posterior prefrontals, the latter partly or completely separated by 1-3 azygous shields (interprefrontals). Usually a pair of more or less lengthened frontals (which may be fused). Supraocular large, irregularly shaped, broken up into two or more shields, usually two. Frontals and supraoculars followed by a variable number of unequal, irregularly arranged shields. 81 - 93 midbody scale rows.
Unmistakeable snake in the area.

Distribution:
It is found from south of the Sahara to northern Angola, and from Senegal to Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. In Ethiopia, they are fairly common and they are known almost from the whole territory except very dry or very cold areas. My observations are from : Luqua (Omo), Hawasa(Rift Valley), Langano lake (Rift Valley, Bedelle (Western forests), Gambella, Bahir Dar (Tana lake), Gewane (nort-east, according to Tomáš Mazuch).

Biology:
It inhabits areas with plenty of hiding places in the rocks, the hollow trunks or in a roots of trees. In the savanna often uses the abandoned burrows of other animals, e.g. pigs, porcupines, aardwarks ..etc. Dry season sometime survives in coverts. Females laying between 20 and 100 hard-shelled, elongated eggs in an old animal burrow, termite mound or caves. The female shows a surprising level of maternal care, coiling around the eggs, protecting them from predators and possibly helping to incubate them, until they hatch around 90 days later Hatchlings remain with the female for about 14 days to the first ecdysis. After that leave from the mother and begin to live independently. They feeds on a variety of large rodents, monkeys, antelopes, fruit bats, monitor lizards and even crocodiles in forest areas, and rats, poultry, dogs and goats in suburban areas.

Description original:
GMELIN in L 1789 - Linnaeus, C.: Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis. 13. ed., cura Johann Friedrich Gmelin. Tom 1 Pars 3. Georg. Emanuel Beer, Lipsiae [Leipzig]. pp. 1033-1516.
Described as Coluber Sebae

Common english name: African Rock Python

Python sebae - habitat, Luqa, south Omo region, Gamo Gofa keflehager, S Ethiopia























































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