Lined Snake (Tropidoclonium lineatum)

Lined Snake
Tropidoclonion lineatum (subspecies: annectens)
(Order: Squamata, Family: Colubridae)

Tropidoclonium lineatum (Kansas, Sedgwick Co., 0.5 mi. S of Derby, 37.522355 N, -97.270077 W, July 2013(Photo by David Wickell)

 

Description: The lined snake is a relatively small species of snake attaining an adult length of 22.4-38.0 cm (8.5-15.0 inches). It can be readily identified by the double row of black semicircles along its belly and entire venter plate. Dorsally it has stripes of various colors including white, yellow, orange and grey on a green background with the mid-dorsal stripe being most prominent. The other stripes are of similar color on scale rows two and three. Green scales may be edged in black. Young average 9.5-12.0 cm (3.5-4.5 inches) at birth. The four subspecies are diagnosed by the number of sub-ventral scales.

     

Tropidoclonium lineatum dorsal view (left) and close up (right). Images from: http://www.biosurvey.ou.edu/okwild/misc/linsna.html

 

Adult Natural History: These snakes are primarily nocturnal. They spend the day hiding under rocks and debris, coming out at night to hunt. They can burrow deep into the ground at night after their primary prey, earthworms. This species can occasionally be seen basking in grassy areas in the early morning. They prefer moist soil under rocks where they dig a shallow trough to coil up in. If disturbed, they thrash violently and exude strong smelling musk from their vent.

Mating occurs in early autumn and has rarely been observed in the wild. Females store sperm during hibernation from November to March. They feed heavily during spring before retreating under various refuges during gestation. Females are ovoviviparous and give birth to around seven live young in August. Mothers do not defend their young and in captivity, have even been observed cannibalizing their own offspring.

 

Distribution: Three of the four subspecies are found in Kansas (all except texanumwhere this snake is common. They are known to interbreed. Nationally, the species have a spotty distribution west of the Mississippi river and east of the Rocky Mountains. They range north to South Dakota and south to southern Texas.

Tropdioclonium lineatum distribution map (in yellow) (From IUCN Red List: http://maps.iucnredlist.org/map.html?id=63998)

Habitat: Lined Snakes occupy a wide range of habitats and appear highly resistant to various forms of pollution. They are one of few species that are common in urban areas where ever there is debris to hide under. Their other primary requirement is open ground where they can hunt for earthworms.

 

Diet: They subsist almost exclusively on earthworms though they occasionally resort to cannibalism.

 

Conservation Status: Least Concern (IUCN)


 

Video: Lined Snake digging a hole (From: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmCRX3qAm2M)

 

Links:

Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropidoclonion

At "herp net": http://www.herpnet.net/Minnesota-Herpetology/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=96:lined-snake-tropidoclonion-lineatum&catid=39:minnesota-snakes&Itemid=61

Kansas Herpetological society: http://www.cnah.org/khs/

 

References:

Force, E.R. Habits and Birth of Young of the Lined Snake, Tropidoclonion lineatum (Hallowell). Copeia (1931). 1931.2: 51-53

Ramsey, L.W. The Lined Snake, Tropidoclonion lineatum (Hallowell). Herpetologica (1953), 9.1: 7-24

Collins, Joseph T., Conant, Roger. Reptiles and Amphibians: Eastern/Central North America. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1991. 

 

Submitted by: David Wickell, July 2013

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