Common Brown Water Snake biting off more than it can chew …

Jimmy and Janet Calder presented the museum with a ‘double specimen’ when they deposited a juvenile Common Brown Water Snake (Lycodonomorphus rufulus) which had died attempting to consume a Tropical House Gecko on their property recently. The tail section of the gecko was still exposed on death and it is assumed that both species died as a result of internal injuries caused by the snake trying to consume a live gecko.


This is a good natural history record and Bayworld museum herpetologist, Werner Conradie, would like the gecko specimen to be sent to the University of the Western Cape as they are undertaking research on this species. He is thanked for confirming the species names. Tropical House Geckos are able to change colour – those individuals living close to lights which are on all night are usually very pale and sometimes appear translucent. The illustration below shows several pads under each toe which are divided down the middle of the toes into about five pairs. Each toe has a retractable claw.


Original tails are longer than the body length and have 6 rows of backward pointing tubercles. They can reach a length of between 60-90mm.

The Common Brown Water Snake is a constrictor and can reach a length of up to 700 mm. The specimen illustrated below is a juvenile and these nocturnal and terrestrial snakes prefer moist habitats.

They are harmless to humans. Sometimes they are confused with other species such as the Brown House Snake. Females lay a clutch of 6-23 eggs which take about 2 months to hatch.

Kevin Cole

Reference: A guide to the reptiles of southern Africa by Graham Alexander and Johan Marais (Struik Publishers 2008)

About East London Museum Science

Conservation Biologist East London Museum South Africa
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