Oreocryptophis porphyracea kawakamii
Red Bamboo Ratsnake
紅 竹蛇 (hong2zhu2she2)
Status: Not Protected
Colubridae, subfamily Colubrinae
Occurrence in Taiwan
Throughout Taiwan, mainly up to 1000 m altitude. Rare.
Endemic to Taiwan
Medium-sized snake; total length up to 110 cm. There are 17-21 rows of smooth and shiny scales. Head is a narrow, elongate oval and not distinct from neck; body is long, streamlined and round; tail is medium in length. Eye is medium-sized; iris is red brown flaked with black, and a broad, black, diffuse horizontal band runs across middle of eye and appears as continuation of the prominent dark band behind eye; pupil is jet black, may be surrounded by ring of light yellow. Tongue is red, darkened by diffuse black, fork tips dark gray to black. Upper head is dark red or rusty brown with three distinct black longitudinal lines; one located on mid dorsal part of head extending from posterior union of parietals anteriorly to end of nose and the others extend posteriorly from each eye to join a transverse band on neck. The labials are lighter in color. Upper body and tail are red to rusty or bronze brown, iridescent, darkened by scattered or diffuse fine black pigment. There are two very narrow longitudinal lines of dark brown or black, continuous or discontinuous, extending length of body and to tip of tail, and 11 to 14 transverse bands variable in shape, completeness and coloration. In the young, the upper body may be bright pink to red with prominent bands of dark gray or black and prominent longitudinal lines. Ventral surface is white to very light yellow gray. Anal scale is divided and subcaudals are paired.
Biology & Ecology
Oreocryptophis porphyracea is a docile and shy nocturnal rat snake species found in mid to upper-level elevations of forested hills in Asia, ranging from evergreen tropical to dry seasonal forests depending on the subspecies and locality. The Taiwanese subspecies O. p. kawakamii inhabits humid forests or farmland where it preys mainly on mice. Females produce about 3 eggs of approximately 5 x1.7 cm per clutch in summer or spring. Hatchlings measure about 33 cm in total length.
"The generic name alludes to the animal's secretive way of life in mountainous areas, and stems from the Greek words “oros”, meaning mountain, “kryptos”, meaning hidden or secret, and “ophis”, meaning snake;" (Source)
porphryacea means "purple";
kawakamii was chosen in honor of Japanese botanist Takiya Kawakami (1871-1915), director of the National Taiwan Museum from 1910-1915.The Chinese name 紅竹蛇 (hong2zhu2she2) means "Red Bamboo Snake" and alludes to the similarity of the snake's pattern with a red bamboo pole.
The wide black bands in juveniles gradually fade with age, until only two thin black stripes on the sides of the former bands remain.