Yellowbelly snake

The yellow-bellied snake is a species of non-poisonous snakes common in the south of Russia, belonging to slender snakes. In some areas it is called yellow-bellied snake or yellow-bellied snake. These are the largest snakes in the post-Soviet space. Due to their aggressive behavior, the Yellowbelly is rarely kept in terrariums or as pets. However, the Yellowbelly snake benefits agriculture because it feeds on rodents that cause significant damage to crops. Due to these benefits, more localized damage by eating birds and their eggs is negligible.

Origin of the species and description

Photo: Snake yellowbelly

Photo: Yellowbelly Snake

The yellow-bellied snake is a large, non-venomous snake from the family of already-shaped. In the past, the Colubridae (already) were not a natural group, as many of them were more closely related to other groups than to each other. This family has historically been used as a “wastebasket” for different taxa of snakes that do not fit into other groups. However, recent studies in molecular phylogenetics have stabilized the classification of “already” snakes, and the family is now defined as a monophyletic clade. Although more research is needed to sort this out.

Since its original description by Johann Friedrich Gmelin in 1789, the yellow-bellied snake has been known by many names in Europe.

The list of titles is given below:

  • C. Caspius Gmelin , 1789;
  • C. acontistes Pallas, 1814;
  • C. thermis Pallas, 1814;
  • C. jugularis caspius, 1984;
  • Hierophis caspius, 1988;
  • Dolichophis caspius, 2004

This species includes subspecies:

  • Dolichophis caspius caspius — from Hungary, Romania, southeastern former Yugoslav Republic, Albania, Ukraine, Republic of Moldova, Bulgaria, Greece, western Turkey, Russia, Caucasus coast;
  • Dolichophis caspius eiselti — from the Greek islands of Rhodes, Karpathos and Kasos in the Aegean Sea.

Most of the already-shaped ones are not poisonous or have poison that is not harmful to humans.

Appearance and features

Photo: Rostov region

Photo: Yellow-bellied snake in the Rostov region

The yellow-bellied snake reaches a maximum total body length of 2.5 meters, and is considered the largest in Europe, but the usual size is 1.5-2 m. The head is oval, elongated, slightly separated from the neck. The tip of the nose is blunt and rounded. Very long tongue and relatively thick. The tail is long and thin. The general ratio of snake length to tail length is 2.6-3.5. The eyes are large and have round pupils. The maxillary teeth are uneven in length, longer at the back of the jaw, the last two teeth often separated from each other by a narrow gap.

Video: Yellowbelly snake

Biometric data in the control samples showed: total length (head + body + tail) in males – 1160-1840 mm (average 1496.6 mm), in females – 800-1272 mm (average 1065.8 mm). The length of the head and body (from the tip of the snout to the anterior edge of the cloacal fissure) in males is 695-1345 mm (average 1044 mm); in females – 655-977 mm (average 817.6 mm). Tail length: 351-460 mm (average 409.8 mm) in males, 268-295 mm (average 281.4 mm) in females. Head length (from tip to mouth): males – 30 mm, females – 20 mm. Head width (measured between the corners of the mouth) males – 22-24 mm, females -12 mm.

Yellowbellies are characterized by smooth dorsal scales. Nineteen rows of scales can be found in the middle part of the body, although sometimes there may be seventeen. The dorsal scales have two apical pits on the posterior margin. They are lighter in the center than at the edges. The back of the snake is gray-brown and has markings that are characteristic of young snakes, but disappear with age. The ventral side is light yellow or white.

Where does the yellowbelly snake live?

Photo: Yellow-bellied snake

Photo: Yellow-bellied snake

The yellow-bellied snake is found on the Balkan Peninsula, in some parts of Eastern Europe to the Volga region and in a small part of Asia Minor. It can be found in the open steppe, in steppe and mountain forests, on the edges of steppe forests, in bushes near roads, in semi-desert, in sands and on slopes, near mountain streams, between vegetated bushes, stones and rocks, on the slopes of valleys and ravines. , on steep banks along rivers and dry reeds.

In the North Caucasus, the yellow-bellied penetrates into desert areas with sandy mounds. During dry periods of the year, it is often found near riverbeds and even in swamps. Often crawls in search of food and places to lay eggs in various ruins, including the ruins of houses, in household outbuildings or even in residential buildings, under haystacks, in gardens, on vineyards and other similar places. In the mountains it rises to a height of 2000 m. In the Caucasus it occurs at altitudes from 1500 to 1600 m.

Populations of the yellow-bellied snake have been recorded in countries such as:

  • Albania;
  • Bulgaria;
  • Macedonia;
  • Serbia;
  • Turkey;
  • Croatia;
  • Greece;
  • Romania;
  • south of Slovakia;
  • Moldova;
  • Montenegro;
  • south of Ukraine ;
  • in Kazakhstan;
  • in the south of Russia;
  • in the south of Hungary;
  • Jordan.

Habitats can be distributed in lowlands near large rivers such as the Danube and the Olt River. Previously, the yellow-bellied snake was thought to be extinct in Moldova, eastern Romania and southern Ukraine, where only two known habitats were known and the snake had not been seen since 1937. However, three specimens were collected in May 2007 in the Galati district of Romania.

In Hungary, it was previously thought that the Yellowbelly lived in only two areas, but a recent survey of the region revealed several previously unknown habitats of these snakes along the Danube River. In the southern Crimea there is an average of 1 specimen per 2 km², in northern Dagestan & # 8212; 3-4 snakes per km², and in southern Armenia — on average, 1 specimen per 1 km².

Now you know where the yellow-bellied snake lives. Let’s see what it eats.

What does the yellowbelly snake eat?

Photo: Yellow-bellied snake

Photo: Yellow-bellied snake

It feeds mainly on lizards: rocky, nimble, Crimean and sandy. Less commonly, chicks, birds and their eggs. As well as rodents: gophers, rats, mice, gerbils, hamsters. Sometimes other snakes are included in the diet, including poisonous ones: the common viper and the sand efa, to the poisonous bite of which the yellow-bellied snake is indifferent. The snake rarely feeds on amphibians; in humid areas it catches frogs. Large insects and spiders can also become victims of the yellowbelly.

The snake can move through the holes of rodents and destroy them. In search of food, it climbs trees, where it devastates the nests of birds that do not settle too high, but most often preys on birds nesting on the ground. In Crimea, the favorite food of snakes is reptiles — lizards, snakes and mammals — ground squirrels, shrews, voles, mice, hamsters.

An interesting fact: In the Astrakhan region, the bad snake in semi-desert regions feeds on sand lizards and fast foot-and-mouth lizards (31.5%), agile lizard (22.5%), field and crested larks, and gray little larks (13.5%), gophers (9%), ground squirrels (31.7%), gerbils (18.1%), mice (13.5%), hamsters (17.8%) and insects and spiders.

In captivity, young individuals prefer lizards, adults feed well on mice and white rats. This fast and powerful snake captures its prey with amazing speed. The yellow-bellied prey is swallowed alive without suffocating it. Larger animals that resist are first killed by pressing on them with a strong body or by grabbing them by the mouth and strangling them, winding rings around the victim.

Character and image features life

Photo: Yellowbelly Snake

Photo: Yellowbelly Snake

The yellow-bellied snake hibernates in rodent burrows and other earthen shelters. Hibernation lasts about six months. For winter recreation, more than ten individuals often gather in one place. Yellow-bellied leaves from the shelter at the end of April — early May, and activity begins to show in February — March, depending on the area, until September-October. In the Crimea and the North Caucasus, a snake appears on the surface after hibernation at the end of March & # 8212; early April, in the south of Ukraine — in mid-April and in Transcaucasia at the end of February.

Yellow-bellied snake — this is a diurnal non-venomous snake that basks in the sun, partially shaded by some kind of bush, and hides in anticipation of lizards. In spring and autumn, the snake is active during the day, and in the summer, at the hottest time of the day, it rests, and is active in the morning and evening. This snake — the fastest in our fauna, gliding at high speed so that it can hardly be seen. The speed of movement allows the yellow-bellied snake to capture even very fast prey.

Interesting fact: A hallmark of the misbehavior of the yellow-bellied snake is extraordinary aggression. Among the snakes of our fauna, these snakes (especially males) are the most aggressive and harmful. He does not try to hide when a person approaches, as other snakes do, but curls up into rings, as poisonous vipers do, and makes a throw of 1.4-2 m, trying to hit the face.

In forested areas with trees and shrubs, they quickly rise up until they disappear into the foliage at high altitude (up to 5-7 m). The same lightness is manifested when moving among rocks and crevices. Although the yellow-bellied snake is not a venomous snake, the bite of an adult is painful, bleeding, and sometimes infected, but usually not dangerous to human health.

Social structure and reproduction

Photo: Little Yellowbelly

Photo: Little Yellowbelly

Yellow-bellied reaches puberty 3-4 years after birth. At this time, the length of the snake is 65-70 cm. Sexual dimorphism in this species is obvious: adult males are larger than females, their heads are much larger. During mating games, snakes meet in pairs. In the more northern regions of the range, mating occurs at the end of May, and in the southern, for example, in the Crimea, from mid-April to mid-May.

Interesting fact: The snake’s genitals are not on the outside of the body at the base of the tail, as they are hidden in a pocket at the base of the tail, called the cloaca, which also houses their liquid and solid waste system. Male genitalia — hemipenes — consist of two connected penises, each of which is connected to one testicle, giving it a bifurcated appearance.

The male Yellow-bellied snake makes a powerful grip on the neck of the female with his jaws and immobilizes her by wrapping his tail , and then copulation occurs. During mating, the yellow-bellied snake loses its usual vigilance. As soon as the snakes finish intercourse, they disperse.

After 4-6 weeks, the female begins to lay eggs in the place chosen the day before. The clutch consists of 5-12 (maximum 20) eggs with an average size of 22 x 45 mm. Eggs are laid in hidden places: in natural cavities in the soil, sometimes in trunks or cracks in tree trunks. Small yellowbellies hatch in the first half of September and reach 22-23 cm (without tail) at hatching. There have been reports of the species breeding in captivity. The life expectancy of the Yellowbelly snake is 8-10 years.

Natural enemies of the Yellowbelly snake

Photo: Yellow-bellied snake in Russia

Photo: Yellow-bellied snake in Russia

As shelters, the reptile uses cracks in the soil, rodent burrows, pits in heaps of stones, rocky formations in steppe valleys, bushes, pits near tree roots and ditches. When confronted or approached by an enemy, the yellow-bellied snake does not try to hide, fleeing, on the contrary, it assumes a threatening posture, twisting into rings and raising the front of the body like poisonous snakes, violently flapping its open mouth, rushing furiously at the enemy with long jumps and trying to hit enemy.

Large specimens of snakes can make jumps of 1.5-2 m. This intimidating behavior is intended to scare away a potential enemy, creating a respite for the snake to escape. The aggressive behavior of the Yellowbelly can even frighten a large animal, even a horse. If the yellow-bellied snake is caught, it is very aggressive and makes barking sounds, trying to bite the attacker’s face or hand.

It happens that the yellow-bellied snakes fall prey to large birds, martens, foxes. They also die under the wheels of a car: a car is not a horse, it will not be able to scare it with loud hissing and threatening jumps.

The yellow-belly is harmed by the parasites of this snake:

  • gamasid mites;
  • acanthocephalans;
  • leaf fish;
  • nematodes;
  • trematodes;
  • cestodes.

Yellow-bellied snakes are rarely kept in terrariums due to their aggressive behavior.

Population and species status

Photo: Yellow-bellied snake

Photo: Yellow-bellied snake

Habitat degradation, destruction and fragmentation, expansion of agricultural and grazing lands, deforestation, tourism and urbanization, use of pesticides and agricultural fertilizers, direct destruction by local residents, illegal collection and road traffic are the main reasons for the decline of the yellowbelly snake.

The malevolent nature of the Yellowbelly causes excessive hostility in people. This is added to the public lifestyle and large size and leads to the frequent destruction of the snake. Like other inhabitants of the plains and open landscapes, the species suffers from various forms of economic activity. Therefore, the number of yellow-bellied snake is rapidly falling, but the snake does not threaten extinction in the near future.

Interesting fact: Climate warming is one of the most important threats to biodiversity. Organisms such as amphibians and reptiles are especially vulnerable because they climatic conditions have a direct influence on them.

Data on the conservation status of the yellow-bellied snake are virtually non-existent in many regions. Although it is known to be common in the Dobruja region, it is a rare species and endangered in other areas. Snakes killed on the road are «common» for local residents. Traffic-related deaths may be responsible for population decline. Habitat loss is the reason for the decline of the species in Europe. In Ukraine, the yellow-bellied snake lives in regional landscape parks and customers (it is considered a common species in many habitats).

Gellow-bellied snake protection

Photo: Yellow-bellied snake from the Red Book

Photo: Yellow-bellied snake from the Red Book

The IUCN Worldwide Red List of Conservation Status of European Reptiles lists the yellow-bellied snake as a non-endangered species LC — i.e., causing the least concern. But it is still difficult to estimate the population on a global scale and to accurately determine the classification of the species by endangered species. This yellow-bellied snake was included in the Appendix of the Red Book of Russia and the Krasnodar Territory (2002).

This species is considered Vulnerable (VU) in the Romanian Red Data Book. Dolichophis caspius is also included in the Red Book of Ukraine as a Vulnerable Species (VV), in the Red Book of the Republic of Moldova and Kazakhstan. In Romania, the yellow-bellied snake is also protected by Law No. 13 of 1993. The species is protected by the Berne Convention (Appendix II), with the European Directive 92/43/EEC of the European Community (Appendix IV).

Interesting fact: The Yellowbelly is also protected by a special Government Decree on the regime of protected natural landscapes, conservation of natural habitats, wild flora and fauna, approved with further changes and additions, being considered a vulnerable species that requires protection.

Low-lying areas such as steppes, forest-steppes and forests, which are the preferred habitats of the Caspian yellow-bellied snake, are particularly fragile and subject to land-use change due to their value as agricultural and grazing fields. In addition, these areas are extremely sensitive to slight fluctuations in humidity and temperature, that is, to the effects of climate change. In developing countries, conservation measures are implemented at a slower pace and may not be a priority.

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