Brown Water Snake – Beacon Bay, East London

A real treat was this Brown water snake, Lycodonomorphous rufulus, which was revealed  under a paving stone close to a water tank at the home of museum scientist Kevin Cole. These are medium sized snakes which typically have a cylindrical body and a head that is barely distinct from the rest of the body.

Credit: Kevin Cole

Credit: East London Museum

Mainly nocturnal, these snakes feed on frogs and tadpoles and sometimes fish. They can capture their food underwater, in confined crannies and under stones.

They are harmless to man (lacking fangs and venom glands). Brown water snakes are powerful constrictors. Larger frog species are constricted before being swallowed.  Female water snakes grow larger than the males. They lay between 6-23 eggs which hatch after an incubation period of approximately 60-65 days, measuring about 197-216 mm.

In addition to the Brown water snaked illustrated above our region also has the Dusky-bellied water snake, Lycodonomorphous laevissimus, which has a larger head, is more robust and has no pink/orange on the belly (more stripy). Colleague Werner Conradie from the Bayworld Museum in Port Elizabeth is thanked for pointing this out and for identifying the Brown water snake.

Reference: Field guide to snakes and other reptiles of southern Africa by Bill Branch (1998).

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About East London Museum Science

Conservation Biologist East London Museum South Africa
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