Published March 18, 2024. Open access.

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Swift Spotbelly Snake (Coniophanes dromiciformis)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Serpentes | Colubridae | Coniophanes dromiciformis

English common name: Swift Spotbelly Snake.

Spanish common name: Culebra ventripunteada veloz.

Recognition: ♂♂ 38.1 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=25 cm. ♀♀ 42.3 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=28.5 cm..1 Coniophanes dromiciformis is a small snake that can be identified by having 3 to 5 black lines on top of head between the eyes (Fig. 1), although in old specimens the two outer stripes may be faint.1 The dorsum is light brown with a series of dark longitudinal stripes and the dorsal scales are smooth and arranged in 19 rows at mid-body.1 This species differs from C. longinquus by lacking well-defined dark spots on the anterior third of the body.2 From C. fissidens, it differs by having a dark mid-dorsal stripe that becomes tripartite on the nape as well as by having a pale, immaculate belly or with inconspicuous dark punctations (spotted in C. fissidens).13

Figure showing variation among individuals of Coniophanes dromiciformis

Figure 1: Individuals of Coniophanes dromiciformis from Ecuador: Reserva Las Balsas, Santa Elena province (); Vinces, Los Ríos province ().

Natural history: Coniophanes dromiciformis is a diurnal and terrestrial snake that inhabits xeric ecosystems, including seasonally dry forests, savannas, and shrublands. The species also occurs in areas having a matrix of pastures, plantations, and remnants of native vegetation.4 During sunny hours, these snakes may be seen swiftly moving on leaf-litter, soil, or among grass.4 At night or during cold days, they remain hidden under tree bark, in crevices, in rotten logs, or among the roots of banana trees.4 Nothing is known of the diet in this species, except that one specimen had consumed a toxic frog of the genus Leptodactylus.3 Spotbelly snakes are calm, jittery, and rely mostly on their camouflage and swift movements to avoid predation.4 They have a long, fragile tail that breaks off easily when grabbed by a predator, enabling the escape and survival of the snake.4

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Conservation: Near Threatened Not currently at risk of extinction, but requires some level of management to maintain healthy populations.. Coniophanes dromiciformis is proposed to be included in this category, instead of Vulnerable,5 because the species’ extent of occurrence is greater than the 20,000 km2 threshold needed for the VU category. However, its habitat is fragmented, with no less than 75% of it already destroyed.6 Furthermore, snakes of this species suffer from intense traffic-related mortality.7,8 Therefore, C. dromiciformis may qualify for a threatened category in the near future if these threats are not addressed.

Distribution: Coniophanes dromiciformis is endemic to an area of approximately 53,693 km2 along the Tumbesian-Chocoan transition area of western Ecuador (Fig. 2). The species also likely occurs in neighboring Peru.

Distribution of Coniophanes dromiciformis in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Coniophanes dromiciformis in Ecuador. The star corresponds to the type locality: Guayaquil, Guayas province, Ecuador. See Appendix 1 for a complete list of the presence localities included in the map.

Etymology: The name Coniophanes comes from the Greek konios (=dust) and phanion (=dim),9 and probably refers to the light spots along the belly of some members of the genus. The specific epithet dromiciformis comes from the Greek dromikos (=swift) and the Latin forma (=shape).9

See it in the wild: Swift Spotbelly Snakes may be encountered at rate of about once a week in forested areas throughout its distribution. They are abundant around the city Guayaquil, particularly in the Bosque Protector Cerro Blanco. The snakes may be seen as they cross forest trails during sunny mornings.

Authors: Alejandro ArteagaaAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador. and Sophia HurtadobAffiliation: Universidad ICESI, Cali, Colombia.

Photographers: Jose VieiracAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,dAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador. and Amanda QuezadacAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,aAffiliation: Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Arteaga A, Hurtado S (2024) Swift Spotbelly Snake (Coniophanes dromiciformis). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/HFHF6070

Literature cited:

  1. Bailey JR (1939) A systematic study of the snakes of the genus Coniophanes. Papers of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts and Letters 24: 1–48.
  2. Cadle JE (1989) A new species of Coniophanes (Serpentes: Colubridae) from northwestern Peru. Herpetologica 45: 411–424.
  3. Myers CW (1969) Snakes of the genus Coniophanes in Panamá. American Museum Novitates 2372: 1–28.
  4. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  5. Cisneros-Heredia DF (2021) Coniophanes dromiciformis. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2021-3.RLTS.T176777A50866906.en
  6. MAE (2012) Línea base de deforestación del Ecuador continental. Ministerio del Ambiente del Ecuador, Quito, 30 pp.
  7. Medrano-Vizcaíno P, Brito-Zapata D, Rueda-Vera A, Jarrín-V P, García-Carrasco JM, Medina D, Aguilar J, Acosta-Buenaño N, González-Suárez M (2023) First national assessment of wildlife mortality in Ecuador: an effort from citizens and academia to collect roadkill data at country scale. Ecology and Evolution 13: e9916. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.9916
  8. Gaón Rojas JE, Valdez Cusme GP (2021) Mortalidad de la fauna silvestre por efecto vehicular en la carretera Calceta-Quiroga. BSc thesis, Escuela Superior Politécnica Agropecuaria de Manabí Manuel Feliz López, 127 pp.
  9. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington D.C., 882 pp.

Appendix 1: Locality data used to create the distribution map of Coniophanes dromiciformis in Ecuador (Fig. 2). Go to the section on symbols and abbreviations for a list of acronyms used. Asterisk (*) indicates type locality.

EcuadorAzuayRío MollepungoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorAzuaySarayungaPhoto by José Manuel Falcón
EcuadorBolívarSan José del Tambo, 8 km E ofPazmiño-Otamendi 2020
EcuadorCotopaxiBosque Privado JDLSPellet 2017
EcuadorCotopaxiEl Limón, 6 km E ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorCotopaxiLa ManáiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorCotopaxiRecinto San GerardoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEl OroBirónLoaiza-Lange 2023
EcuadorEl OroEl RetiroiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEl OroIsla San GregorioGarzón-Santomaro, et al. 2019; BioWeb
EcuadorEl OroLa CadenaPazmiño-Otamendi 2020
EcuadorEl OroLas LajasGarzón-Santomaro, et al. 2019; BioWeb
EcuadorEl OroPiñasPhoto by Evelyn Hurtado
EcuadorEl OroPortoveloTCWC 24131; VertNet
EcuadorEl OroReserva Biológica BuenaventuraCogălniceanu et al. 2015
EcuadorEl OroReserva Ecológica ArenillasGarzón-Santomaro, et al. 2019; BioWeb
EcuadorEl OroSan Joaquín de Santa RosaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEsmeraldasAtacamesiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEsmeraldasMajúaReyes-Puig & Peñaherrera-Romero 2022
EcuadorEsmeraldasTonsupaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasBalzarTorres-Carvajal et al. 2019
EcuadorGuayasBosque Protector Cerro BlancoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasBosque Protector Cerro ColoradoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasBosques del BatániNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasCapeiraPhoto by Eduardo Zavala
EcuadorGuayasCerros del YolánReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorGuayasChongónPhoto by Gonzalo Pazmiño
EcuadorGuayasEl AromoMHNG 2458.018; collection database
EcuadorGuayasEl MangoPazmiño-Otamendi 2020
EcuadorGuayasEstero MaicitoVásquez Ávila 2023; Museo de Zoología de la Universidad del Azuay (MZUA); Gbif
EcuadorGuayasGuayaquil, CeibosiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasGuayaquil, Colegio Simon BolívariNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasGuayaquil, SinaiiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasGuayaquil, TerranostraiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasGuayaquil*Peters 1863
EcuadorGuayasHacienda San AntonioiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasIsidro AyoraiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasIsla SantayReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorGuayasLas TecasiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasLos SamanesReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorGuayasMilagroCadle 1989
EcuadorGuayasMilagro, 3 km SE ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasParque Metropolitano de GuayaquiliNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasVía al PaniNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasZoo El PantanaliNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorLojaEl TundoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorLojaNogal, 5 km E ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorLojaVía Pindal–PaletillasTorres-Carvajal et al. 2019
EcuadorLos RíosBabahoyoMyers 1969
EcuadorLos RíosBosque Protector Pedro Franco DávilaCruz & Sánchez 2016
EcuadorLos RíosHacienda El Señor de los CaballosReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorLos RíosJabillaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorLos RíosLa VictoriaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorLos RíosPacaloriReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorLos RíosQuevedoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorLos RíosRío ChaunePazmiño-Otamendi 2020
EcuadorLos RíosRío MaculMyers 1969
EcuadorLos RíosVincesThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorManabí10 de Agosto, 3 km SW ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíArrastradero, 4 km N ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíBoca de BricenoLoaiza-Lange 2023
EcuadorManabíBosque Seco Lalo LoorReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorManabíCalceta–Quiroga roadGaón Rojas & Valdez Cusme 2021
EcuadorManabíFlavio Alfaro, 14 km SE ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíGregorio PitaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíLa Habana, 5 km NW ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíLos BartolosiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíLos Senderos de TachilaPhoto by Tina Swan
EcuadorManabíMaicitoMHNG 1367.082; collection database
EcuadorManabíMateiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíPavóniNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíPerichicoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíPortoviejoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíPuerto Caña Chica, 5 km E ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíRancho San PabloiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíRancho SolgariNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíRecinto El TopaderoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíReserva Jama CoaqueLynch et al. 2016
EcuadorManabíRío AyampePazmiño-Otamendi 2020
EcuadorManabíSan LorenzoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíSanta AnaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíSesme, 3 km W ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSanta ElenaReserva Las BalsasThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorSanta ElenaSimón BolívariNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasPuerto Limón, 8 km SW ofiNaturalist; photo examined