Farancia abacura reinwardtii

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Geographic Range

Western mud snakes are common throughout the Gulf Coast region. They can be found in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and have been reported as far north as Illinois and Indiana. These snakes inhabit elevations of up to 500ft.

(Tennant 1998)

Habitat

Mud snakes are typically found in and around stagnant, muddy waters, along shores of swampy, sluggish water and under logs and debris.

(Wright and Wright 1947)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • rivers and streams

Physical Description

Western mud snakes range anywhere from 20 to 72 inches in length, although the average size is between 30 and 40 inches. They have bright red markings along the lower sides, extending up to their shiny black back. Mud snake hatchlings appear similar to adults, but don't have the complete bands founds on adults and are much smaller. In fact, the mud snake has the largest ratio of hatchling to adult body size of any native snake.

(Meade 1941)

Reproduction

Oviparous - Western mud snakes nest during July and August and lay clutches with anywhere from 11 to 60 eggs. Most female snakes dig a cavity in sandy soil and remain coiled around the clutch throughout incubation; however, some instances of nest parasitsm have been obseerved within the nests of American alligators. This act creates several benefits for the snake eggs because not only are alligator nests well insulated and gaurded by a protective mother, but the eggs are shielded from floodwaters by the elevated nests.(Tennant 1998)

Behavior

These snakes appear above ground in late March/early April and usually go into hibernation in October. They are nocturnal, aquatic burrowers and are prey-specific predators. (Greene 1997)

Food Habits

Western mud snakes are semi-aquatic predators that feed mainly on frogs, giant salamanders (sirens and amphiumans) and eels.

(Tennant 1998)

Conservation Status

Although there is little documented evidence regarding the effects of the nest parasitism demonstrated by the mud snake, it could be detrimental to the American alligator populations if their reproductive success is hindered by the snake eggs.(Tennant 1998)

  • IUCN Red List [Link]
    Not Evaluated

Other Comments

Mud Snakes are also known as "horn snakes" because their tails end in horn-like tips. It was first thought that the point was used as a stinger to attack their prey, but it is now believed to have evolved both to restrain prey and to aid in movement through the mud. (Meade 1941)

Contributors

Sara Vingiello (author), Southwestern University, Stephanie Fabritius (editor), Southwestern University.

Glossary

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

References

Greene, H. 1997. Snakes: The Evolution of mystery in nature. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Meade, G. 1941. The natural history of the mud snake. The Scientific Monthly, 63: 21-29.

Tennant, A. 1998. A Field Guide to Texas Snakes. Houston: Gulf Coast Publishing.

Wright, A., A. Wright. 1957. Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada. Ithaca: Comstock Publishing.