Indian Egg-eater (Elachistodon westermanni)
Photo: Parag Dandge
Indian Egg Eater (Elachistodon westermanni)
English- Indian Egg-Eating Snake, Westermann's Snake
Distribution - Found in Bihar(Purnea), Gujarat(Amreli, Bhavnagar, Gir, Junagadh, Surat), Maharastra(Vidarbh), Uttrakhand(Corbett National Park), West Bangal(Jalpaiguri)
Status - Uncommon
Length- Adults measure approx. 60cm but can grow upto 80cm.
Dorsal body- - Body stout shaped with shiny smooth scales. Dorsal colour blackish-brown, dark chocolate brown or olive brown. In fore body black coloured patterns in zig zag manner starts from neck and become faint on mid body. Between these patterns other scales have whitish edge in grouped scales. One yellowish line runs along vertebral scales from neck to end of the tail; mostly its in broken form in neck and continues from posterior of the neck. Posterior of the body almost patternless also having lighter colour than fore body. In posterior body scales two colours shares same scales which gives appearance of some checkered pattern on closer view.
Ventral body- Belly colour glossy white with blackish brown patches on the edge of many fore body scales. These patches also become faint in posterior body. Subcaudal scales paired in a zigzag manner and having no patches.
Head- Head little elongated with rounded snout. Broader than neck and covered with shiny smooth scales. Colour of head chocolate brown with reddish tint. Top scales have blackish-brown colour in inside parts which touches front side edges. Upper lip colour white with black colour on the edge, in posterior lip scales these margins are very prominent. Large eyes have rounded pupils but appears entirely black most of the times. Tongue color reddish.
Tail- The tail have almost uniform brown colour which is lighter than fore-body, having yellowish colour stripe on top scales. tail length typical like other snakes and ends with pointed tip.
Key characters for identification-
Look alikes- Closely looks like Common Trinket, Striped Keelback.
- Shiny blackish body having yellow stripe runs from neck to tail.
- Having black and white zig zag markings in fore body which are absent in posterior side.
Head- 6 or 7 Supralabials; 3rd & 4th touches eyes; 1 Preocular; 1 long Loreal touches eyes; 2 Postocular; Temporals total 2 or 3 with upper completely covers parietal.
Dorsal- Scales smooth with 15-15 in whole dorsal body except neck where they are in 19-19 rows.
Ventral- 203-217; Anal undivided mostly.
Subcaudal- 59-68; divided in Zig-zag manner.
Behavior- Égg Eater is nocturnal in activity but can show activity at day time also. Lives in dry area having bird nests, in short lives in areas having scrubby vegetation which is good for making nest. Feeds mainly on bird and reptile eggs(their yolk only or whole egg with shell), lizards. This is one of the very few snakes who swallow eggs of other animals and takes only yolk part most of the times and rest part(shell) they regurgitate. Behavior silent and rarely bites, on provocation coil the body from front in spring shape, keep the head little above the ground, move tail very fast to drag attention towards it and finally make attacks. Also make tight coil and hide its head under it.
Reproduction - Mating is not much known but lays eggs like other Colubrids.
Rescue Situations -
Species like Indian Egg Eater is rare in rescues. Even if its regionally populated, it rarely comes inside the house. In such case every time rescuer must release this in same area having vegetation which is its natural habitat. Any attempt of keeping is the alternate way of killing this sensitive species.
Smith, M.A. 1943. The Fauna of British India, Ceylon and Burma, Including the Whole of the Indo-Chinese Sub-Region. Reptilia and Amphibia. 3 (Serpentes). Taylor and Francis, London. 583 pp.
Captain, A.; Frank Tillack, Andreas Gumprecht and Parag Dandge 2005. FIRST RECORD OF Elachistodon westermanni REINHARDT, 1863 (SERPENTES, COLUBRIDAE, COLUBRINAE) FROM MAHARASHTRA STATE, INDIA. Russ. J. Herpetol. 2 (2): 156 – 158
Vyas, Raju 2006. Story of a snake's photograph from Gujarat and notes on further distribution of the Indian egg-eater snake. Herpinstance 3(2): 1-4.
Dandge, P.H. 2007. Food and Feeding Habits of Elachistodon westermanni Reinhardt, 1863. Hamadryad 32 (1):86-87
Vyas, Raju 2010. Distribution of Elachistodon westermanni in Gujarat. Reptile Rap (10) 7-8