Overview

Distribution

National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) The range extends from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic coast of North America (Conant and Collins 1991, Stebbins 2003). The northern limit of the more or less continuous portion of the range reaches Nova Scotia, southern Quebec, southern Ontario, Minnesota, southeastern South Dakota, eastern Nebraska, southeastern Colorado, and Arizona. The southern limit extends to San Luis Potosi (Mexico), the Gulf Coast of the United States, and southern Florida. The species also occurs disjunctly in western North America in eastern Washington, eastern Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona, and it ranges from southern Washington through western Oregon and throughout much of California (except the Central Valley and deserts) into northwestern Baja California, including Islas Todos Santos and San Martin along the Pacific Coast (Grismer 2002). This species has been introduced on Grand Cayman Island (probably via ornamental plants from southern Florida), but it is unknown whether or not the species is established there (Schwartz and Henderson 1991).

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Range Description

The range of this species extends from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic coast of North America (Conant and Collins 1991, Stebbins 2003). The northern limit of the more or less continuous portion of the range reaches Nova Scotia, southern Quebec, southern Ontario in Canada, Minnesota, southeastern South Dakota, eastern Nebraska, southeastern Colorado, and Arizona in the United States. The southern limit extends to San Luis Potosi (Mexico), the Gulf Coast of the United States, and southern Florida. The species also occurs disjunctly in western North America in eastern Washington, eastern Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona, and it ranges from southern Washington through western Oregon and throughout much of California (except the Central Valley and deserts) into northwestern Baja California, including Islas Todos Santos and San Martin along the Pacific Coast (Grismer 2002). This species has been introduced on Grand Cayman Island (probably via ornamental plants from southern Florida), but it is unknown whether or not the species is established there (Schwartz and Henderson 1991).
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Geographic Range

Ringneck snakes are common snakes occurring throughout eastern and central North America. Their range extends from Nova Scotia, southern Quebec, and Ontario to south-central Mexico, covering the entire eastern seaboard except for areas along the gulf coasts of south Texas and northeast Mexico. The range extends laterally to the Pacific coast except for large areas in drier regions of the western United States and Mexico.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

  • Conant, R., J. Collins. 1998. A field guide to reptiles & amphibians of eastern and central North America, 3rd ed., expanded. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Geographic Range

Ringneck snakes are common snakes occurring throughout eastern and central North America. Their range extends from Nova Scotia, southern Quebec, and Ontario to south-central Mexico, covering the entire eastern seaboard except for areas along the gulf coasts of south Texas and northeast Mexico. The range extends laterally to the Pacific coast except for large areas in drier regions of the western United States and Mexico.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

  • Conant, R., J. Collins. 1998. A field guide to reptiles & amphibians of eastern and central North America, 3rd ed., expanded. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Continent: Middle-America North-America Caribbean
Distribution: SE Canada (incl. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Quebec) USA (California, Oregon, Illinois, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, SE/NE Minnesota, SE Colorado, SE Idaho, Utah, SE South Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, S New Hampshire, S Vermont, S Maine)  Mexico (incl. Aguascalientes), Cayman I  
Type locality: Carolina; restricted to Charleston, South Carolina, by Schmidt, 1953  acricus: Florida;
Type locality: Big Pine Key  amabilis: California;
Type locality: San Jose, California (see Stejneger & Barbour, 1943)  arnyi: Wisconsin, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma;
Type locality: Hyatt, Anderson County, Kansas  docilis: Texas;
Type locality: between Rio San Pedro or Devil’s River and Comanche Spring, Texas  edwardsii: Wisconsin, Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, etc.;
Type locality: Pennsylvania  modestus: California;
Type locality: California (see Stejneger & Barbour, 1943)  occipitalis: South Carolina;
Type locality: designated as “Charleston, South Carolina” (see Schmidt, 1953)  pulchellus: California;
Type locality: El Dorado County, California (see Stejneger & Barbour, 1943)  punctatus: South Carolina, Georgia, Florida;
Type locality: Carolina (in Linnaeus, 1766), but given as “Carolina and Eastern Gulf States” by Stejneger & Barbour (1943), and restricted to “Charleston, South Carolina” by Schmidt (1953)  regalis: Mexico (Sonora);
Type locality: Sonora, Mexico  stictogenys: Illinois, Arkansas;
Type locality: designated as “southern Illinois” (see Schmidt, 1953: 183)  texensis: Louisiana, Texas;
Type locality: “New Orleans to Galveston”
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

The backside, or top, of ringneck snakes can be blue/gray, light brown, or greenish-gray, but it is always a solid color, except for a gold ring around the neck. The ring may not be complete on all animals and may be absent in some. The belly is yellowish-orange, but in some regions may be more orangish-red towards the end. In some regions there are black spots on the belly.

The scales on the back are smooth and the anal plate is divided. Average length ranges between 25 and 38 cm, but some can reach up to 46 cm. When ringneck snakes are born the have the same coloration as adults. Adult females are generally longer than males, and both males and females shed their skin throughout the year.

Range length: 25.5 to 46 cm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger

  • Blanchard, F. 1942. The ring-neck snakes, genus *Diadophis*. Bulletin of the Chicago Academy of Sciences, 7(1): 1-144.
  • Myers, C. 1965. Biology of the ringneck snake, *Diadophis punctatus*, in Florida. Bulletin of the Florida State Museum, Biological Sciences, 10(2): 43-90.
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Physical Description

The dorsum of ringneck snakes varies among subspecies from blue-gray to light brown to greenish-gray, but it is always solid, except for a distinctive golden ring around the neck. The ring may be interrupted or, in the cases of the regal ringneck snakes (D. punctatus regalis) and key ringneck snakes D. punctatus acricus, may appear only as a trace or be completely absent. The abdomen is orange-yellow, but western and extreme southern subspecies show a change in color to orange-red toward the posterior. The presence and configuration of black spots on the abdomen can be used to distinguish subspecies.

Eastern subspecies have 15 scale rows at the anterior end; western subspecies have 17. Scales are smooth and the anal plate is divided. The species has a length of 25 to 38 cm, except D. punctatus regalis, which measures 38 to 46 cm. Newborn snakes have the same markings and coloration as adults. Generally speaking, adult females are longer than adult males. Molting occurs in all months of the year.

Range length: 25.5 to 46 cm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger

  • Blanchard, F. 1942. The ring-neck snakes, genus *Diadophis*. Bulletin of the Chicago Academy of Sciences, 7(1): 1-144.
  • Myers, C. 1965. Biology of the ringneck snake, *Diadophis punctatus*, in Florida. Bulletin of the Florida State Museum, Biological Sciences, 10(2): 43-90.
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Size

Length: 76 cm

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Type Information

Syntype for Diadophis punctatus
Catalog Number: USNM 2076
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Locality: Trinity, headwaters of, Locality In Multiple Counties, Texas, United States, North America
  • Syntype: Kennicott, R. 1860. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia. 12: 328.
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Syntype for Diadophis punctatus
Catalog Number: USNM 2155
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Locality: Monticello, Lawrence, Mississippi, United States, North America
  • Syntype: Kennicott, R. 1860. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia. 12: 328.
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Holotype for Diadophis punctatus
Catalog Number: USNM 103641
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Year Collected: 1936
Locality: Basin, Chisos Mountains, Brewster, Texas, United States, North America
Elevation (m): 1585 to 1585
  • Holotype: Schmidt, K. P. & Smith, T. F.
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Syntype for Diadophis punctatus
Catalog Number: USNM 1897
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Locality: New Orleans to Galveston, Locality In Multiple Counties, Louisiana - Texas, United States, North America
  • Syntype: Kennicott, R. 1860. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia. 12: 328.
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Ecology

Habitat

Palouse Grasslands Habitat

This taxon is found in the Palouse grasslands, among other North American ecoregions. The Palouse ecoregion extends over eastern Washington, northwestern Idaho and northeastern Oregon. Grasslands and savannas once covered extensive areas of the inter-mountain west, from southwest Canada into western Montana in the USA. Today, areas like the great Palouse prairie of eastern  are virtually eliminated as natural areas due to conversion to rangeland. The Palouse, formerly a vast expanse of native wheatgrasses (Agropyron spp), Idaho Fescue (Festuca idahoensis), and other grasses, has been mostly plowed and converted to wheat fields or is covered by Drooping Brome (Bromus tectorum) and other alien plant species.

the Palouse historically resembled the mixed-grass vegetation of the Central grasslands, except for the absence of short grasses. Such species as Bluebunch Wheatgrass (Elymus spicatus), Idaho Fescue (Festuca idahoensis) and Giant Wildrye (Elymus condensatus) and the associated species Lassen County Bluegrass (Poa limosa), Crested Hairgrass (Koeleria pyramidata), Bottlebrush Squirrel-tail (Sitanion hystrix), Needle-and-thread (Stipa comata) and Western Wheatgrass (Agropyron smithii) historically dominated the Palouse prairie grassland.

Representative mammals found in the Palouse grasslands include the Yellow-bellied Marmot (Marmota flaviventris), found burrowing in grasslands or beneath rocky scree; American Black Bear (Ursus americanus); American Pika (Ochotona princeps); Coast Mole (Scapanus orarius), who consumes chiefly earthworms and insects; Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus lateralis); Gray Wolf (Canis lupus); Great Basin Pocket Mouse (Perognathus parvus); Northern River Otter (Lontra canadensis); the Near Threatened Washington Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus washingtoni), a taxon who prefers habitat with dense grass cover and deep soils; and the Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus), a mammal that can be either arboreal or fossorial.

There are not a large number of amphibians in this ecoregion. The species present are the Great Basin Spadefoot Toad (Spea intermontana), a fossorial toad that sometimes filches the burrows of small mammals; Long-toed Salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum); Northern Leopard Frog (Glaucomys sabrinus), typically found near permanent water bodies or marsh; Columbia Spotted Frog (Rana luteiventris), usually found near permanent lotic water; Pacific Treefrog (Pseudacris regilla), who deposits eggs on submerged plant stems or the bottom of water bodies; Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum), fossorial species found in burrows or under rocks; Woodhouse's Toad (Anaxyrus woodhousii), found in arid grasslands with deep friable soils; Western Toad (Anaxyrus boreas), who uses woody debris or submerged vegetation to protect its egg-masses.

There are a limited number of reptiles found in the Palouse grasslands, namely only: the Northern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria coerulea), often found in screes, rock outcrops as well as riparian vicinity; the Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta), who prefers lentic freshwater habitat with a thick mud layer; Yellow-bellied Racer (Chrysemys picta); Ringneck Snake (Diadophis punctatus), often found under loose stones in this ecoregion; Pygmy Short-horned Lizard (Phrynosoma douglasii), a fossorial taxon often found in bunchgrass habitats; Side-blotched Lizard (Uta stansburiana), frequently found in sandy washes with scattered rocks; Southern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata), an essentially terrestrial species that prefers riparian areas and other moist habitats; Pacific Pond Turtle (Emys marmorata), a species that usually overwinters in upland habitat; Western Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis), who, when inactive, may hide under rocks or in animal burrows; Night Snake (Hypsiglena torquata); Western Skink (Plestiodon skiltonianus), who prefers grasslands with rocky areas; Western Terrestrial Garter Snake (Thamnophis elegans), found in rocky grasslands, especially near water; Rubber Boa (Charina bottae).

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Comments: This snake occurs in forests, woodlands, grassland, chaparral, and riparian corridors in arid regions (Stebbins 2003). Habitats are moist, at least seasonally. One or multiple individuals often are found near abandoned buildings and in junk piles in wooded areas. During daylight hours, this snake generally hides underground, in or under logs, or under rocks, stumps or other surface cover. Eggs are laid (often communally) underground or under logs or rocks.

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This snake occurs in forests, woodlands, grassland, chaparral, and riparian corridors in arid regions (Stebbins 2003). Habitats are moist, at least seasonally. One or multiple individuals often are found near abandoned buildings and in junk piles in wooded areas. During daylight hours, this snake generally hides underground, in or under logs, or under rocks, stumps or other surface cover. Eggs are laid (often communally) underground or under logs or rocks.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Ringneck snakes prefer areas with good hiding spaces, but they are found in many different habitats. Damp soil and temperatures between 27 and 29 degrees Celsius are best. Northern and western subspecies prefer to hide under stones or loose bark from dead trees. They are often found in open woodlands near rocky hillsides. Southern subspecies usually stay in wetter areas, like swamps, damp forests, or riparian woodlands.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; chaparral ; forest

Wetlands: marsh

  • Ditmars, R. 1930. Reptiles of the world. New York: The MacMillan Company.
  • Dundee, H., M. Miller III. 1968. Aggregative behavior and habitat conditioning by the prairie ringneck snake, *Diadophis punctatus arnyi*. Tulane Studies in Zoology and Botany, 15(2): 41-58.
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Areas with abundant hiding places are preferred by all subspecies of D. punctatus but, beyond that, they occur in a wide variety of habitats. Gently moistened soil and 27 to 29 degrees Celsius provide optimal conditions. Northern and western subspecies prefer coverage under stones or under the loose bark of dead trees, and are often found in open woodlands near rocky hillsides. Southern subspecies tend to stay in conspicuously wet locales, such as swamps, damp forests, or riparian woodlands.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; chaparral ; forest

Wetlands: marsh

  • Ditmars, R. 1930. Reptiles of the world. New York: The MacMillan Company.
  • Dundee, H., M. Miller III. 1968. Aggregative behavior and habitat conditioning by the prairie ringneck snake, *Diadophis punctatus arnyi*. Tulane Studies in Zoology and Botany, 15(2): 41-58.
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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Distance between hibernaculum and summer range estimated to average 121 m in Kansas study (Fitch 1975).

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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Eats earthworms; slugs; small salamanders, frogs, lizards, and snakes; and various other small invertebrates.

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Food Habits

Ringneck snakes prey upon small Caudata, Squamata, Anura, Oligochaeta, and younger Serpentes of other species. The amount of each of these prey types depends upon availability. Those snakes living in Michigan eat mainly Plethodon cinereus. To stop prey from struggling ringneck snakes use constriction, wrapping themselves around their prey and squeezing to subdue them.

Animal Foods: amphibians; reptiles; mollusks; terrestrial worms

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Food Habits

Prey of D. punctatus consists of small salamanders, lizards, and frogs, as well as earthworms and juvenile snakes of other species. Frequency of specific prey in the diet is dependent on availability. reports show that Michigan populations of eastern ringneck snakes (D. punctatus edwardsii) prey almost exclusively on red-backed salamanders. Ringneck snakes employ partial constriction to subdue their prey.

Animal Foods: amphibians; reptiles; mollusks; terrestrial worms

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates, Vermivore)

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Ringnecks may play a small role in biodegration by moving through surface debris such as branches and leaves within forests. They also take on the role of predator and prey within their habitat, helping to control pest populations and serving as sustenance for larger animals.

Ecosystem Impact: biodegradation

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Predation

When ringneck snakes are frightened, they raise their tail into a coil that is presented to the intruder. This is seen in snakes with reddish-orange tails, where the red color can act as a warning signal. When the snake is held, or further provoked, a musky, smelly mucus is secreted from the corners of its mouth.

Predators include Micrurus fulvius, Lampropeltis, and Coluber constrictor. Other snakes may also be predators of ringneck snakes if they share the same habitat. Wild hogs, opossums, shrews, armadillos, skunks, screech owls, and bullfrogs are possible predators. Large spiders and centipedes have been seen eating young ringneck snakes.

Known Predators:

  • blue racers (Coluber_constrictor)
  • kingsnakes (Lampropeltis)
  • wild hogs (Sus_scrofa)
  • Virginia opossums (Didelphis_virginiana)
  • nine-banded armadillos (Dasypus_novemcinctus)
  • striped skunks (Mephitis_mephitis)
  • easter screech owls (Otus_asio)
  • bullfrogs (Rana_catesbeiana)
  • northern coral snakes (Micrurus_fulvius)

Anti-predator Adaptations: aposematic

  • Bustard, H. 1969. Behavior of the Pacific Boa. Herpetologica, 25: 164-170.
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Ecosystem Roles

Ringnecks may play a small role in biodegration by moving through surface debris such as branches and leaves within forests. They also take on the role of predator and prey within their habitat, helping to control pest populations and serving as sustenance for larger animals.

Ecosystem Impact: biodegradation

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Predation

When ringneck snakes are alarmed, the tail is coiled and raised toward the intruder. This behavior occurs only in populations where the orange-red posterior is present. The red coloration may act as a warning signal. Western subspecies feign death on further provocation. When the snake is held, a musky saliva is secreted from the corners of its mouth, accompanied by a pungent, clinging odor.

Predators include coral snakes, kingsnakes, and racers. Other snakes sharing the geographical areas of the ringneck snake may also be predators. In addition, wild hogs, opossums, shrews, armadillos, skunks, screech owls, and bullfrogs are all suspected predators. Large spiders and centipedes have been observed feeding on juvenile ringneck snakes.

Known Predators:

Anti-predator Adaptations: aposematic

  • Bustard, H. 1969. Behavior of the Pacific Boa. Herpetologica, 25: 164-170.
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Known predators

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Known prey organisms

Diadophis punctatus preys on:
Annelida
Mollusca
Amphibia
Reptilia

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: > 300

Comments: This species is represented by thousands of occurrences or subpopulations.

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Global Abundance

>1,000,000 individuals

Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but undoubtedly exceeds 1,000,000. Local subpopulations may include several thousand individuals (e.g., Fitch 1975, 1982).

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General Ecology

Population density was estimated to be 719-1849/ha in Kansas study. Distances between recaptures averaged 80 m (range 0-1700 m) in same study; home range had maximum dimension of about 140 m (Fitch 1975).

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Touching, rubbing, head nuzzling, and pheromones are all ways of communication for ringneck snakes. Males rub their heads on females during mating, and females release pheromones from their skin when trying to attract a mate. Ringneck snakes perceive the world around them via sight, smell, and touch.

Communication Channels: tactile ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: pheromones

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; chemical

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Communication and Perception

Touching, rubbing, head nuzzling, and pheromones are all ways of communication for ringneck snakes. Males rub their heads on females during mating, and females release pheromones from their skin when trying to attract a mate. Ringneck snakes perceive the world around them via sight, smell, and touch.

Communication Channels: tactile ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: pheromones

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; chemical

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Cyclicity

Comments: Inactive in winter in most areas.

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Life Cycle

Development

After hatching, females start off smaller then males, measuring about 20 cm while males are about 21.9 cm. By the third year they are longer than most males, measuring about 29 cm while males measure about 28 cm.

  • Ernst, C., E. Ernst. 2003. Snakes of the United States and Canada. Washington: Smithsonian Books.
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Development

Female ringneck snakes reach an average of 20 cm in the first year, representing a 60% increase in length. In the second year they grow to about 24.5 cm and, in the third year, females tend to increase to approximately 29 cm. The fourth year they tend to reach about 34 cm, and in the fifth year they can be expected to reach 39 cm.

Males are slightly larger in the earlier stages of development, usually reaching 21.9 cm in the first year, 26 cm in the second, 28 cm in the third year, and about 31 cm in the fourth year.

  • Ernst, C., E. Ernst. 2003. Snakes of the United States and Canada. Washington: Smithsonian Books.
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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

The longest recorded lifespan in captivity is 6 years 2 months. In the wild, though, ringnecks have been recorded as having lived over 10 years. It is thought that they may have a lifespan approaching 20 years in the wild.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
20 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
10 years.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
6 (high) years.

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Lifespan/Longevity

The longest recorded lifespan in captivity is 6 years 2 months. In the wild, though, ringnecks have been recorded as having lived over 10 years. It is thought that they may have a lifespan approaching 20 years in the wild.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
20 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
10 years.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
6 (high) years.

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Reproduction

Lays clutch of 1-18 eggs, usually in June or July. Eggs hatch in up to about 8 weeks. Sexually mature in 2-3 years. May possibly lay two clutches in south. Eggs are laid from late May through August in Florida. Communal nesting common.

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Female ringneck snakes release pheromones from their skin which help attract potential mates. Actual mating between ringneck snakes has rarely been recorded. While mating, males rub their mouths on their mates and bite their mate's neck.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

Ringneck snakes mate in spring or fall, and eggs are laid in June or early July. Female snakes lay 3 to 10 eggs at one time. They are laid in covered, moist locations. In places where many ringneck snakes live together, it is not uncommon to find eggs from different females laid in the same area. Each egg is white with yellow ends, and it is about 2.5 cm long. Eggs hatch in August or September.

Both male and femlae snakes are sexually mature when they are three years old, or by their fourth summer. Males are smaller than females when they reach this point.

Breeding interval: Ringneck snakes breed once each year.

Breeding season: Ringneck snakes breed in the spring or fall.

Range number of offspring: 3 to 10.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 3 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 3 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous ; delayed fertilization

Ringneck snake eggs are not cared for, there is no parental investment after choosing a nest site and laying the eggs. This largely contributes to the high mortality rate of young ringneck snakes.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement

  • Blanchard, F. 1942. The ring-neck snakes, genus *Diadophis*. Bulletin of the Chicago Academy of Sciences, 7(1): 1-144.
  • Blanchard, F., M. Gilreath, F. Blanchard. 1979. The eastern ring-neck snake (*Diadophis punctatus edwardsii*) in northern Michigan. Journal of Herpetology, 13(4): 377-402.
  • Dundee, H., M. Miller III. 1968. Aggregative behavior and habitat conditioning by the prairie ringneck snake, *Diadophis punctatus arnyi*. Tulane Studies in Zoology and Botany, 15(2): 41-58.
  • Myers, C. 1965. Biology of the ringneck snake, *Diadophis punctatus*, in Florida. Bulletin of the Florida State Museum, Biological Sciences, 10(2): 43-90.
  • Scott, C. 1996. Snake Lovers' Lifelist & Journal. Austin: University of Texas Press.
  • Ernst, C., E. Ernst. 2003. Snakes of the United States and Canada. Washington: Smithsonian Books.
  • Aardema, J., S. Beam, J. Boner, J. Bussone, C. Ewart. 2004. "Diadophis punctatus" (On-line). Amphibians and Reptiles of North Carolina. Accessed 04/12/04 at http://www.bio.davidson.edu/projects/herpcons/herps_of_NC/snakes/Dia_pun.html.
  • Jackson, S., P. Mirick. 2000. "Ringneck Snake" (On-line). Snakes of Massachusetts. Accessed 04/12/04 at http://www.umass.edu/umext/nrec/snake_pit/pages/ringn.html.
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Pheromones released from the skin of a female ringneck snake attracts males during mating season. Rarely have ringneck snakes been observed mating, amounting to no more than 6 recorded sightings. While mating, males rub their closed mouths on their mate's body. They then bite the female around her neck ring, align their bodies with the female's, and release their sperm.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

Mating of ringneck snakes can occur in spring or fall--delayed fertilization is possible--and eggs are laid in June or early July. Females lay eggs each year, 3 to 10 eggs can be laid at one time, and are deposited together in covered, moist locations. In areas where colonies exist, it is not uncommon to find eggs laid in communal nests. A single egg is white with yellow ends and is elongated, approximating 1 inch in length. Juveniles hatch in August or September.

Reproductive maturity of both sexes is reached at the age of three years, that is, by their fourth summer. Male ringneck snakes mature at a smaller size than females do.

Breeding interval: Ringneck snakes breed once each year.

Breeding season: Ringneck snakes breed in the spring or fall.

Range number of offspring: 3 to 10.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 3 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 3 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous ; delayed fertilization

Ringneck snake eggs are not cared for, there is no parental investment after choosing a nest site and laying the eggs. This largely contributes to the high mortality rate of young ringneck snakes.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement

  • Blanchard, F. 1942. The ring-neck snakes, genus *Diadophis*. Bulletin of the Chicago Academy of Sciences, 7(1): 1-144.
  • Blanchard, F., M. Gilreath, F. Blanchard. 1979. The eastern ring-neck snake (*Diadophis punctatus edwardsii*) in northern Michigan. Journal of Herpetology, 13(4): 377-402.
  • Dundee, H., M. Miller III. 1968. Aggregative behavior and habitat conditioning by the prairie ringneck snake, *Diadophis punctatus arnyi*. Tulane Studies in Zoology and Botany, 15(2): 41-58.
  • Myers, C. 1965. Biology of the ringneck snake, *Diadophis punctatus*, in Florida. Bulletin of the Florida State Museum, Biological Sciences, 10(2): 43-90.
  • Scott, C. 1996. Snake Lovers' Lifelist & Journal. Austin: University of Texas Press.
  • Ernst, C., E. Ernst. 2003. Snakes of the United States and Canada. Washington: Smithsonian Books.
  • Aardema, J., S. Beam, J. Boner, J. Bussone, C. Ewart. 2004. "Diadophis punctatus" (On-line). Amphibians and Reptiles of North Carolina. Accessed 04/12/04 at http://www.bio.davidson.edu/projects/herpcons/herps_of_NC/snakes/Dia_pun.html.
  • Jackson, S., P. Mirick. 2000. "Ringneck Snake" (On-line). Snakes of Massachusetts. Accessed 04/12/04 at http://www.umass.edu/umext/nrec/snake_pit/pages/ringn.html.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Diadophis punctatus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2007

Assessor/s
Hammerson, G.A. & Frost, D.R.

Reviewer/s
Cox, N., Chanson, J.S. & Stuart, S.N. (Global Reptile Assessment Coordinating Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern in view of the very large and probably relatively stable extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, number of subpopulations, and population size. This species is not threatened in most of its range.
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Three subspecies of ringneck snakes may soon be protected under federal endangered species laws. They are San Diego ringneck snakes, San Bernardino ringneck snakes, and key ringneck snakes. Key ringneck snakes are currently considered an endangered species in Florida. Regal ringneck snakes and northwestern ringneck snakes are protected under state law in Idaho.

Although ringneck snakes are rarely observed, they are fairly common throughout their range. They are secretive snakes and generally remain hidden.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

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Three subspecies are candidates for the federal endangered or threatened species lists. They are San Diego ringneck snakes (Diadophis punctatus similis), San Bernardino ringneck snakes (Diadophis punctatus modestus), and key ringneck snakes (Diadophis punctatus acricus). Key ringneck snakes are also a threatened species in the state of Florida and are protected under state law. The range of that subspecies is limited to a single island in the Florida Keys. In Idaho, regal ringneck snakes (Diadophis punctatus regalis), and northwestern ringneck snakes (Diadophis punctatus occidentalis), are considered species of special concern, and are protected under state law.

Although ringneck snakes are rarely observed, they are fairly common throughout their range. They are secretive snakes and generally remain hidden.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)

Comments: Extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, number of subpopulations, and population size are very large and probably relatively stable.

Global Long Term Trend: Increase of 10-25% to decline of 30%

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Population

Population
This species is represented by thousands of occurrences or subpopulations. The total adult population size is unknown but undoubtedly exceeds 1,000,000. Local subpopulations may include several thousand individuals (e.g., Fitch 1975, 1982). Its extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, number of subpopulations, and population size are very large and probably relatively stable.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Degree of Threat: Unknown

Comments: No major threats have been identified. Many local populations have been lost or reduced as a result of habitat destruction (Ernst and Ernst 2003), but these appear to amount to a small minority of the total distribution.

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Major Threats
No major threats to this species have been identified. Many local populations have been lost or reduced as a result of habitat destruction (Ernst and Ernst 2003), but these appear to amount to a small minority of the total distribution.
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Management

Global Protection: Very many (>40) occurrences appropriately protected and managed

Comments: Many occurrences are in national parks or other well-protected areas.

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Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Many occurrences of this species are in national parks or other well-protected areas.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Ringneck snakes do not adversely affect humans, though, at times, they may cause a slight inconvenience. Due to urbanization, it is not uncommon to find ringneck snakes in one's basement. In these circumstances ringnecks pose no real threat, and must simply be relocated.

Negative Impacts: household pest

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Ringneck snakes are valued in the pet trade for their attractive coloration, and also play a part in research and education. Because they pose no real threat to humans, they are ideal for work with younger children in a school setting. Ringneck snakes also help in controling pest populations.

Positive Impacts: pet trade ; research and education; controls pest population

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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Ringneck snakes do not adversely affect humans, though, at times, they may cause a slight inconvenience. Due to urbanization, it is not uncommon to find ringneck snakes in one's basement. In these circumstances ringnecks pose no real threat, and must simply be relocated.

Negative Impacts: household pest

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Ringneck snakes are valued in the pet trade for their attractive coloration, and also play a part in research and education. Because they pose no real threat to humans, they are ideal for work with younger children in a school setting. Ringneck snakes also help in controling pest populations.

Positive Impacts: pet trade ; research and education; controls pest population

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Wikipedia

Diadophis punctatus

Southern Ringneck snake, Diadophis punctatus

The ring-necked snake or ringneck snake, Diadophis punctatus, is a species of colubrid snake found throughout much of the United States, central Mexico, and southeastern Canada. Ring-necked snakes are secretive, nocturnal snakes, so are rarely seen during the day time. They are slightly venomous, but their nonaggressive nature and small, rear-facing fangs pose little threat to humans who wish to handle them. They are best known for their unique defense posture of curling up their tails, exposing their bright red-orange posterior, ventral surface when threatened. Ring-necked snakes are believed to be fairly abundant throughout most of their range, though no scientific evaluation supports this theory. Scientific research is lacking for the ring-necked snake, and more in-depth investigations are greatly needed.[3] It is the only species within the genus Diadophis, and currently 14 subspecies are identified, but many herpetologists question the morphologically based classifications.[4]

Physical description[edit]

The defensive display of a San Bernardino ring-necked snake
Southern ring-necked snake, D. p. punctatus

Ring-necked snakes are fairly similar in morphology throughout much of their distribution.

Ring-necked snake from Mount Diablo, California

Its dorsal coloration is solid olive, brown, bluish-gray to black, broken only by a distinct yellow, red, or yellow-orange neck band.[5][6] A few populations in New Mexico, Utah, and other distinct locations do not have the distinctive neck band.[5] Additionally, individuals may have reduced or partially colored neck bands that are hard to distinguish; coloration may also be more of a cream color rather than bright orange or red.[6] Head coloration tends to be slightly darker than the rest of the body, with tendencies to be blacker than grey or olive.[6] Ventrally, the snakes exhibit a yellow-orange to red coloration broken by crescent-shaped black spots along the margins.[5] Some individuals lack the distinct ventral coloration, but typically retain the black spotting.[6] Rarely, individuals lack both the ventral or neck band coloration, so the use of those two characteristics are the most simple way to distinguish the species.[5]

Size also varies across the species distribution. Typically, adults measure 25–38 cm (10–15 in) in length,[5] except for D. p. regalis, which measures 38–46 cm (15–18 in).[6] First-year juvenile snakes are typically about 20 cm (8 in) and grow about 2–5 cm (0.7-2.0 inches) a year depending on the developmental stage or resource availability.[6]

Ring-necked snakes have smooth scales with 15-17 scale rows at midbody.[5] Males typically have small tubercles on their scales just anterior to the vent, which are usually absent in females.[5]

Distribution[edit]

Ring-necked snakes are fairly common throughout much of the United States extending into southeastern Canada and central Mexico. Eastern populations cover the entire Eastern Seaboard from the Gulf of Saint Lawrence continuous through the Gulf Coast of Texas.[6] Distribution moves inland into northern Minnesota, continuing diagonally through the US to include all of Iowa, eastern Nebraska, and most of Kansas.[6] In the western US, the distribution is significantly less continuous, with spotty, distinct population segments through most of the Pacific Northwest.[5] Populations extend from south-central Washington continuing along the extreme West Coast into Mexico.[5] Population segments extend inland into western Idaho, through southern Nevada, into central Utah, and continuing south through Arizona and central Mexico.[5]

Habitat[edit]

Ring-necked snakes occur in a wide variety of habitats. Preference seems to be determined by areas with abundant cover and denning locations.[6] Northern and western species are found within open woodlands near rocky hillsides, or in wetter environments with abundant cover or woody debris.[5] Southern species exist primarily within riparian and wet environments, especially in more arid habitats.[6] Stebbins (2003) identified the species as a snake of moist habitats, with moist soil conditions the preferred substrate.[5] Ring-necked snakes are also not found above an elevation of 2200 m.[5] In northern regions, dens are also important in identifying suitable ring-necked snake habitat. Dens are usually shared communally,[6] and are identifiable by an existent subsurface crevasse or hole deep enough to prevent freezing temperatures. Since it is a woodland reptile, it can also commonly be found under wood or scraps. Because of hot weather, they tend to make holes and burrows, or they hide under rocks or any suitable material. They are normally found in flatland forests.

Diet[edit]

The diet of the ring-necked snake consists primarily of smaller salamanders, worms, and slugs, but they also sometimes eat lizards, frogs, and some juvenile snakes of other species.[6] The frequency at which prey species are chosen is dependent on their availability within the habitat.[6] Ring-necked snakes use a combination of constriction and envenomation to secure their prey. The snakes do not have a true venom gland, but they do have an analogous structure called the Duvernoy's gland derived from the same tissue.[3] Most subspecies are rear-fanged with the last maxillary teeth on both sides of the upper jaw being longer and channeled;[3] the notable exception is D. p. edwardsii, which is fangless.[6] The venom is produced in the Duvernoy's gland located directly behind the eye.[3] It then drains out of an opening at the rear of the maxillary tooth.[3] Ring-necked snakes first strike and then secure the prey using constriction. Next, they maneuver their mouths forward, ensuring the last maxillary tooth punctures the skin and allowing the venom to enter the prey's tissue.[3] Ring-necked snakes are rarely aggressive to larger predators, suggesting their venom evolved as a feeding strategy rather than a defense strategy. Rather than trying to bite a predator, the snake winds up its tail into a corkscrew, exposing its brightly colored belly.[6]

Ring-necked snakes are primarily nocturnal or highly crepuscular, though some diurnal activity has been observed.[6] Individuals are sometimes found during the day, especially on cloudy days, sunning themselves to gain heat.[6] Yet, most individuals lie directly under surface objects warmed in the sun and use conduction with that object to gain heat.[6] Though ring-necked snakes are highly secretive, they do display some social structure, but the exact social hierarchies have never been evaluated.[6] Many populations have been identified to have large colonies of more than 100 individuals, and some reports indicate some smaller colonies occupy the same microhabitats.[6]

Breeding[edit]

Ring-necked snakes usually mate in the spring. In some subspecies, though, mating occurs in the fall, and delayed implantation occurs.[6] Females attract males by secreting pheromones from their skin.[6] Once the male finds a female, he starts by rubbing his closed mouth along the female’s body.[6] Then, the male bites the female around her neck ring, maneuvering to align their bodies so sperm can be inserted into the female’s vent.[6] Females lay their eggs in loose, aerated soils under a rock or in a rotted log.[4] Three to ten eggs are deposited in early summer and hatch in August or September.[6] The egg is elongated with a white color contrasted by yellow ends.[6] When hatched, juveniles are precocial and fend for themselves without parental care.[6]

Subspecies[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Stejneger, L.H. and Thomas Barbour. 1917. A Check List of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  2. ^ The Reptile Database. www.reptile-database.org.
  3. ^ a b c d e f O'Donnell, R.P., K. Staniland, R.T. Mason. (2007) Experimental evidence that oral secretions of Northwestern Ring-necked Snakes (Diadophis punctatus occidentalis) are toxic to their prey. Toxicon 50:810–815.
  4. ^ a b Zeiner, D.C., W.F. Laudenslayer, K.E. Mayer, M. White. eds 1988-1990. California's Wildlife. Vol. I-III. California Department of Fish and Game, Sacramento, California.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Stebbins, R.C., 2003. Western Reptiles and Amphibians. Third edition. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa James Yung (2000). "Diadophis punctatus arnyi". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: This species is in need of further phylogenetic and taxonomic study. Available information suggests that multiple species may be represented but elevation of taxa is premature in the absence of a range-wide phylogeographic analysis (see commentary in Crother et al. 2008). For example, Pinou et al. (1995) examined geographic variation in serum albumin and concluded that Diadophis may comprise at least two genetically distinct species. Populations assigned to subspecies arnyi, amabilis, and occidentalis were distinct immunologically from eastern D. p. edwardsii. They pointed out the need for additional study of the taxonomic status and relationships among the nomimal taxa within Diadophis, especially subspecies regalis and dugesii (morphological data of Gehlbach [1974, Herpetologica 30:140-148] indicate that arnyi and regalis intergrade over a broad section of central Texas). In ongoing genetic studies, Feldman and Spicer (2006) found that the subspecies in California (amabilis, modestus, occidentalis, pulchellus, similis, and vandenburghii) are nearly indistinguishable and do not represent unique evolutionary lineages.

Subspecies acricus was proposed as a distinct species by Collins (1991). Collins (1991) further proposed that the species punctatus be split into two species, D. punctatus (including the subspecies arnyi, edwardsii, regalis, punctatus, and stictogenys) and D. amabilis (including the subspecies modestus, occidentalis, pulchellus, similis, and vandenburghii). However, Collins did not present supporting data, and this proposal has not been adopted by others.

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