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Amphiesma stolatum (Striped keelback): Habitat and reproduction

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Herpetological Bulletin 136 (2016) 37
Amphiesma stolatum (striped keelback):
Habitat and reproduction
DAVID PRYCE1, C. JOHN THORPE1, SIDDHARTH KULKARNI2 & TODD R. LEWIS3*
1School of Biological Sciences, Plymouth University, Drake Circus, Plymouth, Devon PL4 8AA, UK.
2Zoology Department, Yashavantrao Chavan Institute of Science, Satara, Satara, India.
3Westeld, 4 Worgret Road, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 4PJ, UK.
*Corresponding author Email: ecolewis@gmail.com
NATURAL HISTORY NOTE The Herpetological Bulletin 136, 2016: 37-38
Amphiesma stolatum (Natricinae) is a non-venomous
Asiatic colubrid distributed widely from Pakistan,
eastward into Southern Asia, northward into south China
and on various mainlands and islands across Southeast
Asia. In India, the snake is found up to 2000 feet (610
m). A. stolatum is a small species (to 90 cm total length),
terrestrial, diurnal, and inhabits well-watered lowland
plains, forests, hills, rice paddy, agricultural and rural areas.
It has a typical natricine diet and hunts amphibians, sh,
invertebrates, small lizards and rodents. Females produce
5-15 eggs per clutch throughout active parts of the year
and may also attend clutches. The snake aestivates during
hot weather and is more frequently observed during rainy
seasons (Whitaker & Captain, 2004).
During monsoon season on 18/07/2014, at midday, we
discovered two clutches of snake eggs whilst conducting
amphibian refugia surveys along line transects (see Heyer
et al., 1994) on an open rocky plateau near Dhamapur,
Kolhapur District, Maharastra, India (N 16 1 53.4, E 73
35 2.4; 85 m) (Fig. 1). The plateau is a ferricrete of laterite
with multiple patches of small loose rocks (Fig. 2). The
clutches of eggs were found under loose rocks situated
next to shallow temporary rain pools in the middle of the
plateau habitat. One clutch had two neonate A. stolatum
under the rock, complete with empty egg shells. These
empty egg shells were also attached to the rest of the
clutch. We therefore surmised that the egg clutches were
most likely to be A. stolatum. A nearby rock also unveiled
an adult female A. stolatum underneath, adding to the
known presence of the species in the area. We recorded
morphometrics of the specimens and eggs (Tables 1, 2
and 3). In the interests of conservation we left the eggs
in-situ to hatch naturally, replacing the covering rock. We
also released the snakes at the site of capture, under their
refugia.
What is interesting to note about this record of egg-
laying was the deposition site. Both clutches and snakes
were discovered in the middle of an open rocky plateau
habitat with nothing but occasional sparse rocks for cover.
The rocks were directly adjacent to the edge of shallow
temporary pools that were formed by recent rains. These
pools were the subject of our initial study for amphibians on
the rocky plateaus and contained ample tadpoles and small
frogs belonging to Fejervarya spp. genera. It is typical
for many oviparous snakes to select a location to lay eggs
which has an appropriate temperature and humidity range,
as well as a substrate capable of maintaining it (Lillywhite,
2014). Such sites are usually warm, moist and free from
initial predation so that they may assist in thermal and water
regulation of the eggs (Lillywhite, 2014). In this instance,
the rock habitat, being out in the open and exposed to
full sun, may only have provided temporary resistance to
desiccation, and a suitable environment for a limited time.
Alternative habitat could have easily been selected nearby
in the form of established islands of vegetation (within
300 m of our transect) or the forest edges that surrounded
the rocky plateau (within 800 m of our transect). Such
alternative locations, close to our transects, contained leaf-
litter and shade that arguably might have made for a less
precarious egg deposition location. The open plateau rocks
had minimal soil and debris under them and although were
Figure 1. Map showing location of Dhamapur, India.
wet from recent rains, could easily dry out on sunnier days
and thus place developing eggs at risk.
Previous observations by Wall (1925) recorded eggs of
the species successfully hatching in a garden in Rangoon
conrming that this snake will use semi-natural nesting
sites. Our observation suggests that this unusual choice
of deposition among lateritic rock by A. stolatum may
be inuenced by seasonality (wet season rains), prey
availability (amphibians/tadpole in temporary pools), and/
or suitable foraging habitat. We also speculate that in this
instance the snakes concerned may have chosen to lay eggs
in an area with immediate prey availability in preference
over traditional substrate as a way of potentially improving
offspring survival.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
We thank the Indian NBA for licenses to work on rocky
plateau habitats of Maharastra. Aparna Watve and Varad
Giri provided local knowledge and support. Funding for
the amphibian expeditions was provided by the Royal
Geographical Society, Zoological Society of London and
the Percy Sladen Memorial Trust.
REFERENCES
Heyer, W.R., M.A. Donnelly, R.. McDiarmid, L.C. Hayek &
M.S. Foster. (1994). Measuring and Monitoring
Biological Diversity: Standard Methods for Amphibians.
Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press. 320 pp.
Lillywhite, H.B. (2014). How Snakes Work: Structure,
Function and Behaviour of the Worlds Snakes. Oxford:
Oxford University Press. 256 pp.
Wall, F. (1925). Rhabdophis stolatus (Linné). In: Notes on
snakes collected in Burma in 1924. Journal of the
Bombay Natural History Society 30: 810.
Whitaker, R. & A. Captain. (2004). Snakes of India: The
Field Guide. Chennai, India: Draco Books. 495 pp.
Figure 2. Rocky plateau habitat near Dhamapur comprising
lateritic rock ground with sparse woody vegetation, scattered
loose lateritic rocks, shallow soil depressions, temporary streams
and pools. Insert: rock partially lifted to reveal A. stolatum eggs.
Accepted: 30 January 2016
Clutch 1 Rock: 35x20cm Temp:
27.1˚C
Egg No. Length (mm) Width (mm)
137.80 17.65
221.10 17.00
324.10 16.70
423.00 16.60
523.00 16.20
620.10 16.60
725.60 14.60
Clutch 2 Rock: 55x40cm Temp: 25.8˚C
Egg No. Length (mm) Width (mm)
123.2 12.7
220.7 14.5
320.1 12.9
420.6 14.2
519.6 13.9
620.5 14.3
720.5 15.6
822.3 12.9
Snakes SVL (mm) Tail (mm) Weight
(grams)
Neonate 11.6 4.8 1.1
Adult F 29.6 11.2 15.05
Table 2. Egg clutch no. 2 morphometrics and habitat detail.
Table 1. Egg clutch no. 1 morphometrics and habitat detail.
Table 3. Amphiesma stolatum morphometrics.
38 Herpetological Bulletin 136 (2016)
David Pryce et al.
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Article
This manual details standard field methods for qualitative and quantitative sampling of amphibian biological diversity. An introductory chapter is followed by an overview of amphibian diversity and natural history. Essentials of standardization and quantification are then covered. Next research design for quantitative amphibian studies is outlined. Chapter five looks at project planning and data acquisition and handling. Chapter six covers standard techniques for inventory and monitoring. Supplementary approaches are examined in the next chapter: artifical habitats; acoustic monitoring; tracking; night driving; GIS; and group activities/field trips. The ninth chapter looks at mark-recapture and removal sampling as methods of population estimation, followed by a chapter on data analysis. A conclusions and recommendations chapter is followed by seven appendices: handling live amphibians; techniques for marking amphibians; recording frog calls; specimen preparation; collecting tissue for biochemical analysis; vendors; and random number table. -S.R.Harris
Book
Please note that to obtain a copy of the book Snakes of India-the Field Guide, please write to <pavithra@madrascrocodilebank.org>
How Snakes Work: Structure, Function and Behaviour of the Worlds Snakes
  • H B Lillywhite
Lillywhite, H.B. (2014). How Snakes Work: Structure, Function and Behaviour of the Worlds Snakes. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 256 pp.
In: Notes on snakes collected in Burma in 1924
  • F Wall
Wall, F. (1925). Rhabdophis stolatus (Linné). In: Notes on snakes collected in Burma in 1924. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 30: 810.