We all know the common snake very well, but little has been heard about its closest aquatic relative. Usually, when people see it, people take this already shaped for a poisonous and dangerous reptile, from which the merman often suffers. Let's learn more about its life, habits, character and external features that distinguish this snake from its ordinary counterpart.
Origin of the species and description
The water snake is a non-poisonous snake belonging to the already-like family and genus of real snakes. This creeper is often mistaken for a dangerous viper, therefore, sometimes they behave aggressively with him. First of all, its color distinguishes it from an ordinary water snake, which is why it is mistaken for a poisonous snake.
Video: Water snake
The water snake does not have the characteristic yellow or orange spots on the back of its head
Fun fact: Water snakes are melanistic and completely black.
A water snake is distinguished from an ordinary one by a pattern in the form of squares, its body is covered with a cubic ornament. No wonder its Latin name “tessellata” in translation means “covered with cubes” or “chess”. Thanks to this peculiarity in coloring, the people called the grass snake “chess viper”. Many people really think that this is such a kind of viper.
The water viper is not only the closest relative of the common one, but also its neighbor, because it often settles nearby, occupying neighboring territories with the same landscape and climate. The main condition for its successful and favorable life is the presence of a water source in the habitat, both flowing and standing water.
Appearing in the recreation area for bathers, this one often causes panic and confusion, while suffering himself. All this fear and hostility towards the water snake from human ignorance, in fact, it is quite harmless and not at all poisonous.
Appearance and features
In addition to the fact that the merman is no longer endowed with bright orange spots on the back of his head, he also has other external features inherent in this particular type of already-shaped ones. The length of the body of a water snake can reach one and a half meters, but individuals are usually found about 80 cm long. Females are slightly larger and longer than males. The length of an ordinary snake is almost the same, it can only grow a few centimeters.
Compared to the common snake, the water edge of the muzzle is more pointed. As noted, it is often mistaken for a viper due to its color, skin pattern, and lack of orange spots. However, if you study the water snake in more detail, then you can note some features that distinguish it from a poisonous reptile:
- the head of the viper has the shape of a triangle, while in the snake it is oblong, oval;
- the snake's head shields are large, in the viper they are much smaller;
- looking into the snake's eyes, you can see that the viper has a pupil located vertically, while the snake has a round shape;
- in size, the common viper is smaller than the snake, its length usually does not exceed 73 cm, and the longitude of the snake goes beyond a meter.
The scales covering the upper part of the reptile have a characteristic ribbing, and the ribs are located longitudinally. We figured out the color of the back of the snake, and its belly in males has a reddish, and in females it has a yellowish-orange hue. On the ventral side, the main background is diluted with dark spots located across the body of the snake person.
Another feature of the water snake is the spot located on the back of the head in the form of the letter “V”, its tip is directed forward. The color of the supper young is almost identical to the color of mature individuals, only their belly has a whitish tint. Snake eyes have round pupils and a yellowish iris with gray flecks.
Where does the water snake live?
Aquatic already quite extensive. Compared to the ordinary dinner fellow, this snake can be considered more thermophilic and southern. He settled throughout the southern part of Europe, occupied the south of Ukraine and Russia, having chosen the territories of the Don, Kuban, Volga, the coasts of the Azov and Black Seas.
If we outline the boundaries of the settlement of the common grass snake, then the picture looks like this:
- in the west, the range is limited to the southwestern part of France (the Rhine Valley);
- in the south, the border runs along the northern regions the African continent, reaching Pakistan and the Persian Gulf;
- the eastern front of the grass snake runs through the territory of northwestern China;
- the northern border of the range extends along the Volga-Kama basin.
From the very name of the reptile it is clear that it cannot exist far from water bodies, it definitely needs water sources in its habitats. Namely, in the water element, he already spends the lion's share of his time. Water already prefers to live in the coastal zone of a lake, river, pond, sea. Artificially created canals and reservoirs perfectly settle in snakes. Creeps adore either completely stagnant or sluggish water, but they also live in cold, stormy, mountain rivers. In the mountain ranges, the water snake can also be found at a three-kilometer height.
Most often, snakes choose for permanent residence reservoirs with a gentle entrance to the water, the smooth slopes of which are covered with gravel, soil or sand. The snakes avoid steep steep banks. Significantly polluted water bodies are also avoided by snakes, because they hunt and feed on small prey without crawling out of the water. The most adored places where reptiles like to rest and relax are large flat-shaped stones located along the banks, or tree branches bent right above the water surface. Snakes are excellent at orienting and moving in the canopy of trees, so they often climb onto the branches of plants located near a reservoir.
What does a water snake eat?
It is not at all surprising that the dinner menu is mainly composed of fish dishes. It hunts for its favorite snack, both in salt and fresh water.
The fish diet consists of:
- small carps;
- sometimes pike.
Small fish are already swallowed up right in the water column, but large ones he has to tinker with, so he cracks down on it on the shore.
An interesting fact: For one successful hunt, he is already able to swallow about four dozen small three-centimeter fish, but much larger fish (about 15 cm in length) are found in his diet.
In addition to fish, the water one is not averse to eating frogs, tadpoles, toads, newts. In the estuaries of the Sea of u200bu200bAzov and the Crimea, it absorbs gobies in large quantities, so the indigenous people called it “goby”. Water snakes prefer to hunt in two ways: they can hide and wait for the prey in ambush, then attack it with lightning speed, or pursue potential prey, deftly maneuvering in the depths.
If the victim manages to sneak away during the attack, they can already catch up with her will not, he will find a new object for hunting. Usually, the reptile clings to the very middle of the fish body, tightly clamps large prey with its jaws and swims with it to the shore, holding it above the surface of the water. Clinging to a coastal bush with its tail, it already drags its heavy burden to land.
The meal begins with the swallowing of a fish head. The dimensions of the prey can be larger than the dinner head, so the reptile swallows it with the help of movable joints of the lower jaw and bones located nearby. Looking at this spectacle, it seems that he is already crawling on his prey.
Interesting fact: It is reliably known that a young small common viper was found in the stomach of one of the water snakes.
Character and Lifestyle Features
Water snakes are diurnal snake predators, active during daylight hours. Creeping out of its lair at dawn, it warms up for a long time in the rays of the morning sun. He spends a lot of time in the water, getting out of it only in the late afternoon, then takes refuge in his shelter until the morning. Snakes do not like strong heat, so during such hot hours they hide in the water surface or shady coastal bushes.
From the name of the reptile it is clear that the snakes are excellent swimmers and excellent divers who are well oriented in the underwater world and can stay in the water column for a long time. Usually, each snake has its own plot of land, which it adheres to, moving along it within two hundred to four hundred meters.
Interesting fact: The sight of water snakes does not fail, it is very sharp and sensitive. Noticing a biped even at a distance of ten meters, the reptile is in a hurry to dive deeper and avoid an unwanted meeting.
The snakes fall into winter stupor with the onset of the first frosts, which usually occur in October-November. Their mobility is already lost with the advent of September, when it starts to get colder. Wintering can be single or collective. The dens in which the snakes survive the harsh winter period are used by them for many years.
Interesting fact: Sometimes during the collective wintering in the shelter, there are up to two hundred supper specimens. Often water snakes winter in the same den with their common counterparts.
Awakening from hibernation occurs when the ambient temperature warms up to 10 degrees with a plus sign, this time falls on the end of March or the beginning of April, it all depends on the region of permanent registration. Recently awakened snakes look sluggish and move little, gradually coming to their senses and gaining agility lost over the winter.
The process of molting in water snakes occurs annually several times. There is evidence that molting in the summer happens monthly. If we talk about the nature and disposition of this reptile, then we can say with confidence that the water snake is a peaceful creature, it was not noticed in aggressive attacks on humans. He himself tries to be the first to retreat when he sees people in order to remain safe and sound.
Social structure and reproduction
When snakes finally lose their winter torpor after hibernation, they begin the wedding season. Then the water snakes gather in whole groups, in which pairs are formed, ready for mating. Reptiles become sexually mature closer to the age of three. After a stormy mating season, females begin to prepare for laying eggs.
In a clutch, there can be from 4 to 20 pieces, the process of laying off is quite long and takes several hours in a row for each expectant mother. The laying of the female is placed in loose and moist soil, under large boulders. Freshly laid eggs are transparent, so the silhouette of the embryo is visible through the shell.
The incubation period takes almost two months. Newly minted kites from birth have increased activity, independence and dexterity. They crawl quickly and look exactly like their parents, yielding to them only in size. The length of small snakes is from 16 to 19 cm. Almost immediately, the kids go on their first hunt for fish fry.
Interesting fact: Water snakes, like ordinary ones, have in collective clutches, which can contain up to a thousand eggs.
Aquatic already-like ones also have an autumn wedding marathon, when reptiles start mating again before hibernation. In this case, egg laying is postponed to the next summer.
Because of their ignorance, many believe that the water snake is the result of crossing an ordinary snake and a viper, which is very erroneous. This assumption is fundamentally wrong, because. these two reptiles belong to completely different species and families and cannot interbreed with each other.
Natural enemies of water snakes
The water snake is completely safe for humans, but there are many threats to the reptile itself. Snakes can become victims of both predatory animals and birds. The most vulnerable are inexperienced young. It’s not at all against eating muskrat snakes, muskrats, weasels, common foxes, hedgehogs, serpent eagles, gray herons, kites, crows. Often small snakes become victims of gulls and waterfowl (mallards).
Even such large fish as pike and catfish can easily gobble up a snake, especially a young one. In addition to fish, some snakes also eat snakes with pleasure (sand efa, big-eyed and yellow-bellied snakes). The creeper has some defensive tools that he uses when he suspects a threat. To scare away the ill-wisher, it already emits a hiss and secretes a fetid secret with the help of the gonads. This specific liquid substrate kills the appetite of many predators, saving supper lives.
Interesting fact: The merman is a real artist who pretends to be dead in self-defense, the ordinary one has the same talent.
Although the merman is not poisonous at all, he often suffers from -for human ignorance, because a person unknowingly takes him for a dangerous viper. Many already imaginative ones die in such unequal battles with people, therefore, having noticed the approaching bipedal ill-wisher, they are in a hurry to retreat, hiding in the depths of the water.
Species population and status
Although the area of u200bu200bsettlement of the water snake is very extensive, the reptile is affected by various negative factors, so its population is declining. In our country, there are no big problems regarding the number of water snakes, only in some areas it is listed in the Red Books. In Europe, things are much worse, this type of already-shaped is on the verge of extinction there.
Such a deplorable situation in European countries is due to the fact that they have a small territory, so snakes have nowhere to settle, people have practically forced them out everywhere. Drying out swamps, cutting down forests, and laying highways have an extremely negative impact on the supper population, which is why it disappears from these regions.
In addition to all of the above problems, the deterioration of the become polluted and become unfit for the wholesome supper of life. Snakes are very susceptible to all sorts of noise from motor boats, ships, coastal campsites, etc. Do not forget that people themselves destroy water snakes because of their similarity with a poisonous viper.
On the territory of Russia as a whole, this species of snakes is under an indefinite status, because. there is no reliable information on the number of supper livestock. If we talk about the international conservation status of the water snake, then it is worth noting that this species of reptile is protected by the Berne Convention.
Protection of water snakes
We have already found out that the population of the water snake has sharply declined precisely in European spaces, where this snake is threatened with extinction. This deplorable situation is connected, first of all, with the fact that the snake simply has nowhere to live, because all the territories around were filled with people. The conservation status of the water snake at the international level states that this species of reptiles is included in the second appendix of the Berne Convention for the Protection of European Species of Wild Fauna and Their Habitats (Animal Species Requiring Special Conservation Measures) of 1979. The species is considered very rare, but its specific number remains unknown.
In the spaces of our country, the situation with the supper livestock is not as bad as in Europe, although the population is also gradually decreasing in some areas. The negative factors are the pollution of water bodies and the people themselves, who kill water snakes, mistaking them for a viper. Currently, there are no data on the number of water snakes, their specific number in Russia has not been established either. This reptile is listed in the Red Book of some separate regions: Voronezh, Samara, Saratov.
Among the protective measures of the water snake, one can list:
- organization of specialized protected areas;
- trapping ban;
- promotion of water snake conservation measures among local residents;
- restriction of human intervention on indigenous biotopes.
It remains in conclusion add that not everything unknown is dangerous, like the water snake, which many people did not even know about, mistaking it for a chess viper. The snake aquatic life of this harmless fish lover is very interesting and, having understood it in more detail, you will learn a lot of new and unusual things that were previously hidden at a depth or in dense, shrubby, coastal thickets.