dcsimg

Uropeltidae

provided by EOL authors

Shield-tailed snakes (family Uropeltidae) are poorly studied fossorial snakes. There are 55 species in 8 genera. They are most closely related to Asian pipesnakes (Cylindrophiidae and Anomochilidae). The maximum size of the largest species is about 18" long, and some species have brightly colored undersides, especially on the neck and tail. They areendemic to mountain ranges in southern peninsular India & Sri Lanka, especially in thehigh-altitude 'shola' forests of the Western Ghats. Thanks to their doubly-supported skulls (both the atlas and axis contact the skull), their thick, myoglobin- & mitochondria-rich anterior trunk muscles, and unique method of burrowing (in which they simultaneously push the sides of the body against the tunnel walls and move the head forward, without pushing the rest of their bodies backward), they are capable of tunneling as deep as two meters through relatively hard soil. Their body scales shed dirt and their short, blunt, shield-like tails collect it behind them as they burrow. Most species eat earthworms, and they are eaten by other snakes, wild boars, mongeese, and predatory birds. They mate during the rainy season and females give birth to 3-9 live young at a time. It's likely that a high amount of diversity remains to be described, but continued habitat destruction and degradation throughout their range means that we may never know the true extent of uropeltid diversity.

References

  • Beddome, R. H. 1886. An account of the earth-snakes of the peninsula of India and Ceylon. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 17:3-33
  • Bossuyt, F., M. Meegaskumbura, N. Beenaerts, D. J. Gower, R. Pethiyagoda, K. Roelants, A. Mannaert, M. Wilkinson, M. M. Bahir, K. Manamendra-Arachchi, K. L. N. Peter, C. J. Schneider, V. O. Oommen, and M. C. Milinkovitch. 2004. Local endemism within the Western Ghats-Sri Lanka biodiversity hotspot. Science 306:479-481
  • Comeaux, R. S., J. C. Olori, and C. J. Bell. 2010. Cranial osteology and preliminary phylogenetic assessment of Plectrurus aureus Beddome, 1880 (Squamata: Serpentes: Uropeltidae). Zoological Journal of the Linnaean Society of London 160:118-138
  • Gans, C. and D. Baic. 1977. Regional specialization of reptilian scale surfaces: relation of texture and biologic role. Science 195:1348-1350
  • Gans, C., H. C. Dessauer, and D. Baic. 1978. Axial differences in the musculature of uropeltid snakes: the freight-train approach to burrowing. Science 199:189-192
  • Ganesh, S. 2010. Richard Henry Beddome and south India’s herpetofauna—a tribute on his centennial death anniversary. Cobra 4:1-11
  • Ganesh, S. 2015. Shieldtail snakes (Reptilia: Uropeltidae)–the Darwin’s finches of south Indian snake fauna? Pages 13-24 in P. Kannan, editor. Manual on identification and preparation of keys of snakes with special reference to their venomous nature in India. Proceedings by Govt. Arts College, Udhagamandalam, Tamilnadu, India
  • Ganesh, S. R. and S. R. Chandramouli. 2013. Endangered and Enigmatic Reptiles of Western Ghats – An Overview. Pages 35-61 in N. Singaravelan, editor. Rare Animals of India. Bommanampalayam Bharathiyar University (Post), Tamil Nadu, India
  • Gaymer, R. 1971. New method of locomotion in limbless terrestrial vertebrates. Nature 234:150-151
  • Gower, D. J. 2003. Scale microornamentation of uropeltid snakes. Journal of Morphology 258:249-268
  • Günther, A. 1864. The Reptiles of British India. Robert Hardwick, London
  • Olori, J. C. and C. J. Bell. 2012. Comparative skull morphology of uropeltid snakes (Alethinophidia: Uropeltidae) with special reference to disarticulated elements and variation. PLoS ONE 7:e32450
  • Smith, M. A. 1943. The Fauna of British India. Volume III. Serpentes. Taylor & Francis, London
  • Pyron, R. A., S. R. Ganesh, A. Sayyed, V. Sharma, V. Wallach, and R. Somaweera. 2016. A catalogue and systematic overview of the shield-tailed snakes (Serpentes: Uropeltidae). Zoosystema 38:453-506
  • Rajendran, M. 1985. Studies in uropeltid snakes. Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai.
  • Rieppel, O. and H. Zaher. 2002. The skull of the Uropeltinae (Reptilia, Serpentes), with special reference to the otico-occipital region. Bulletin of the Natural History Museum: Zoology 68:123
  • Shanker, K. 1996. Nature watch: secrets of the shieldtails. Resonance 1:64-70
  • Wall, F. 1921. A new snake of the family Uropeltidae. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 28:41-42
  • Wall, F. 1921. Ophidia Taprobanica, or the Snakes of Ceylon. H. R. Cottle, Govt. Printer, Colombo
  • Wall, F. 1922. Acquisition of four more specimens of the snake Brachyophidium rhodogaster Wall. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 28:556-557
  • Williams, E. E. 1959. The occipito-vertebral joint in the burrowing snakes of the family Uropeltidae. Breviora 106:1-10

license
cc-by-3.0
copyright
Andrew Durso
original
visit source
partner site
EOL authors

Uropeltidae

provided by wikipedia EN

The Uropeltidae, the shieldtail or shield-tailed snakes,[2] are a family of primitive, nonvenomous, burrowing snakes endemic to peninsular India and Sri Lanka. The name is derived from the Greek words ura ("tail") and pelte ("shield"), indicating the presence of the large keratinous shield at the tip of the tail. Seven or eight genera are recognized, depending on whether Teretrurus rhodogaster is treated in its own genus or as part of Brachyophidium.[2][3] The family comprises over 50 species.[2] These snakes are not well known in terms of their diversity, biology, and natural history.

Description

 src=
Tails of Uropeltidae

These are small snakes, with adults growing to between 20 and 75 cm in length. They are adapted to a fossorial way of life, which is apparent in their anatomy. The skull is primitive and inflexible, with a short, vertical quadrate bone and rigid jaws; the coronoid bone is still present in the lower jaw. The orbital bones are absent, the supratemporal is vestigial and the eyes are small and degenerate, not covered by a brille, but by large polygonal shields. However, the pelvis and hind limbs, the presence of which is also considered a primitive trait, have disappeared in this family.[4]

The tail is characteristic, ending in either an enlarged rigid scale with two points, or more often an upper surface with a subcircular area covered with thickened spiny scales, or a much enlarged spiny plate. The ventral scales are much reduced in size.[4] The body is cylindrical and covered with smooth scales.

Behaviour and natural history

Many species of shieldtail snakes are rather poorly known in terms of natural history. Field studies indicate that most species are obligate burrowers and may often come out on to soil surface during rainy nights. Even roadkills of these snakes have been recorded by field biologists during peak monsoon rains. They seem to prefer the humus-rich topsoil layers and rarely burrow deeper inside (like during very hot or dry weather).

When approached by predators, these snakes do not bite like most snakes, but coil their bodies into a ball and hide their heads tucked underneath. Some may poke with their harmless tail tip, like a worm snake. Many have a drab and dull-coloured back, but a very bright, contrastingly coloured underside (such as bright yellow, red, etc.) to startle predators by turning upside down and twitching. This aposematic colouration wards off would-be predators.[5]

Geographic range

They are found in Peninsular India and Sri Lanka.[1] In India, their distribution is mainly along the hills of Western Ghats, and a few species occur in other areas such as the Eastern Ghats and hills of Central India. In Sri Lanka, they occur in many biotopes including dry zone and the plains.

Evolutionary significance

Because of their peculiar geographic distribution, with many hill ranges in South India and Sri Lanka having an endemic shieldtail, they are thought to be analogous to Darwin's finches, in a broader sense - an evolutionary radiation.[6] This is the only family of snakes endemic to South Asia. Genetic studies on this group have brought forth largely similar results as regards common ancestry and phenotypic diversification patterns.[7][8][9] Molecular dating analysis has suggested that uropeltids originated around the Paleocene - Eocene boundary splitting from its sister clade Cylindrophiidae + Anomochilidae around 56 MYA.[9]

Feeding

Their diets consist mostly of invertebrates, particularly earthworms, and many species have actually been observed in the wild by researchers to eat earthworms. Frank Wall, who dissected many species for analysing the gut contents to study the diet, remarks about the presence of worms and mud.

Reproduction

All members of this family retain eggs that hatch within the body of the mother (ovoviviparity).[10]

Genera

Genus[2] Taxon author[2] Species[2] Common name Geographic range[1][11] Melanophidium Günther, 1864 4 Western Ghats, India] Platyplectrurus Günther, 1868 2 Southern Western Ghats, India Pseudoplectrurus G.A. Boulenger, 1890 1 Western Ghats, India Plectrurus A.H.A. Duméril, 1851 3 Western Ghats, India Rhinophis Hemprich, 1820 20 Sri Lanka and South India Teretrurus Beddome, 1886 2 Western Ghats, India UropeltisT Cuvier, 1829 24 Peninsular India

T Type genus[1]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d McDiarmid RW, Campbell JA, Touré T. 1999. Snake Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, vol. 1. Herpetologists' League. 511 pp. ISBN 1-893777-00-6 (series). ISBN 1-893777-01-4 (volume).
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Uropeltidae". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 17 August 2007.
  3. ^ Uropeltidae at the Reptarium.cz Reptile Database. Accessed 3 November 2008.
  4. ^ a b Parker HW, Grandison AGC. 1977. Snakes -- a natural history. Second Edition. British Museum (Natural History) and Cornell University Press. 108 pp. 16 plates. LCCCN 76-54625. ISBN 0-8014-1095-9 (cloth), ISBN 0-8014-9164-9 (paper).
  5. ^ Rajendran M. V. ( 1985) Studies in Uropeltid Snakes. Madurai university Press, Madurai.
  6. ^ Ganesh, S. R. 2015. Shieldtail snakes (Reptilia: Uropeltidae)– the Darwin's finches of south Indian snake fauna? Manual on Identification and Preparation of Keys of Snakes with Special Reference to their Venomous Nature in India., Govt. Arts College, Ooty, 13-24.
  7. ^ Cadle, J.E., Dessauer, H.C., Gans, C. & Gartside, D.F. (1990) Phylogenetic relationship and molecular evolution in uropeltid snakes (Serpentes: Uropeltidae): allozymes and albumin immunology. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 40, 293–320.
  8. ^ Bossuyt, F., Beenaerts, N., Meegaskumbura, M., Gower, D.J., Pethiyagoda, R., Roelants, K., Mannaert, A., Wilkinson, M., Bahir, M.M., Manamendra-Arachchi, K., Oommen, O.V., Ng, P.K.L., Schneider, C.J. & Milinkovitch, M.C. (2004) Local endemism within the Western Ghats-Sri Lanka biodiversity hotspot. Science, 306, 479–481.
  9. ^ a b Cyriac, V.P.; Kodandaramaiah, U. (2017). "Paleoclimate determines diversification patterns in the fossorial snake family Uropeltidae Cuvier, 1829" (PDF). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 116: 97–107. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2017.08.017. PMID 28867076.
  10. ^ Tinkle, D.W., Gibbons, J.W. (1977). The Distribution and Evolution of Viviparity in Reptiles. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, Miscellaneous Publications 154. PDF
  11. ^ Pyron R. A.; Ganesh S. R.; Sayyed A.; Sharma V.; Wallach V.; Somaweera R. (2016). "A catalogue and systematic overview of the shield-tailed snakes (Serpentes: Uropeltidae)" (PDF). Zoosystema. 38 (4): 453–506. doi:10.5252/z2016n4a2.
license
cc-by-sa-3.0
copyright
Wikipedia authors and editors
original
visit source
partner site
wikipedia EN

Uropeltidae: Brief Summary

provided by wikipedia EN

The Uropeltidae, the shieldtail or shield-tailed snakes, are a family of primitive, nonvenomous, burrowing snakes endemic to peninsular India and Sri Lanka. The name is derived from the Greek words ura ("tail") and pelte ("shield"), indicating the presence of the large keratinous shield at the tip of the tail. Seven or eight genera are recognized, depending on whether Teretrurus rhodogaster is treated in its own genus or as part of Brachyophidium. The family comprises over 50 species. These snakes are not well known in terms of their diversity, biology, and natural history.

license
cc-by-sa-3.0
copyright
Wikipedia authors and editors
original
visit source
partner site
wikipedia EN