Published November 29, 2020. Updated April 24, 2024. Open access.

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Golden-bellied Snake (Erythrolamprus albiventris)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Serpentes | Colubridae | Erythrolamprus albiventris

English common name: Golden-bellied Snake.

Spanish common names: Culebra ventridorada, culebrilla ventridorada, culebra boba de vientre pálido, culebra boba verde.

Recognition: ♂♂ 67.9 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. ♀♀ 80.5 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail.. Erythrolamprus albiventris is a medium-sized snake having a white or yellow immaculate belly. The dorsum is bright leaf-green or olive with thin black stripes along the posterior half of the body and tail (Fig. 1).1 This species differs from other greenish diurnal snakes in western Ecuador (particularly Chironius exoletus, C. monticola, and Dendrophidion graciliverpa) by being smaller (total length <1 meter), having contrasting black stripes on the body (not only on the tail), and by having smooth dorsal scales arranged in 17 rows at mid-body.2 This species differs from E. fraseri by having immaculate, rather than black-checkered, ventral surfaces.1 Young individuals of E. albiventris usually have a black nape band.

Figure showing variation among individuals of Erythrolamprus albiventris

Figure 1: Individuals of Erythrolamprus albiventris from Ecuador: Guanazán, El Oro province (); Santa Lucía Reserve, Pichincha province (); Valle de los Chillos, Pichincha province (); Guápulo, Pichincha province (); Milpe, Pichincha province (); Manduriacu Reserve, Imbabura province (); and Otonga Reserve, Cotopaxi province (). ad=adult, j=juvenile.

Natural history: Erythrolamprus albiventris is a comparatively common diurnal and terrestrial snake that inhabits evergreen lowland forests, cloud forests, and humid montane shrublands. The species also occurs in areas having a matrix of pastures, plantations, and remnants of native vegetation, as well as in gardens of heavily-populated urban areas such as Quito.2 Golden-bellied Snakes occur in higher densities along marshes, swamps, artificial ponds, and along streams,2,3 and they also venture inside caves and abandoned mines.4 Most active individuals are seen during sunny hours in the morning, crossing roads and trails, basking in open areas or foraging on leaf-litter, soil, or among grass or shrubs.2,3,5 However, individuals are capable of climbing on vegetation up to 2 m above the ground.3 When not active, they remain hidden under logs, timber, agave plants, dirt clods, stones, building blocks, or in crevices.2,3,5

Golden-bellied Snakes have an aglyphous dentition,1 meaning their teeth lack specialized grooves to deliver venom. They are active hunters having a diet primarily based on frogs (including Hyloxalus infraguttatus,4 Epipedobates anthonyi,4 Leptodactylus melanonotus,2 Pristimantis achatinus,5 and P. unistrigatus),3 and tadpoles of Gastrotheca riobambae.3 They also feed on lizards such as Gonatodes caudiscutatus,4 Lepidoblepharis conolepis,2 Pholidobolus montium6 and Stenocercus guentheri.7 Individuals are usually calm and try to flee when threatened, relying mostly on crypsis as a primary defense mechanism. If disturbed, they may flatten their body dorsoventrally and produce a musky odor.3 Individuals of Erythrolamprus albiventris are preyed upon by snakes (Erythrolamprus mimus) and by domestic animals (cats and chickens).2

Breeding congregations of Erythrolamprus albiventris have been observed during the rainy season in western Ecuador (December–May). In one hole, five males and one female were coiled into a reproductive ball.5,8 Clutches of 5–10 eggs have been found in heaps of rotten vegetation.9,10

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Conservation: Near Threatened Not currently at risk of extinction, but requires some level of management to maintain healthy populations..11 Erythrolamprus albiventris is included in this category on the basis of the specie’s wide distribution (here estimated to be ~53,539 km2), presence in over a dozen protected areas, and presumed stable populations.2 The main threat to the long-term survival of populations of E. albiventris is the continuing decline in the extent and quality of its habitat, mostly due to encroaching human activities such as agriculture, cattle grazing, wild fires, and the replacement of native vegetation with eucalyptus and pine trees. Approximately 63.3% of the potential habitat of the species in Ecuador has already been destroyed.12 Golden-bellied Snakes also suffer from human persecution and traffic-related mortality.3,5 Therefore, the species may qualify for a threatened category in the near future if these threats are not addressed. However, there is no current information on the population trend of E. albiventris to determine whether its numbers are declining.

Distribution: Erythrolamprus albiventris is endemic to an area of approximately 53,539 km2 in Ecuador, where it is distributed throughout the Chocoan lowlands and adjacent foothills of the Andes as well as in the inter-Andean valley of Quito (Fig. 2).

Distribution of Erythrolamprus albiventris in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Erythrolamprus albiventris in Ecuador. See Appendix 1 for a complete list of the presence localities included in the map.

Etymology: The name Erythrolamprus, which comes from the Greek words erythros (=red) and lampros (=brilliant),13 refers to the bright red body rings of some snakes in this genus (such as E. aesculapii). The specific epithet albiventris, which comes from the Latin words albus (=white) and venter (=belly),13 refers to the immaculate ventral surfaces.14

See it in the wild: Individuals of Erythrolamprus albiventris are frequently encountered in forested areas throughout the specie’s distribution. However, they are particularly abundant in the general area of Mindo and along the old Nono–Mindo road, Pichincha province. The snakes may be spotted as they cross trails and roads in areas having adequate vegetation cover, especially during sunny mornings.

Acknowledgments: Special thanks to Carlos Zorrilla, Eduardo Zavala, and Jose Manuel Falcón for providing locality data and natural history information for Erythrolamprus albiventris. This account was published with the support of Secretaría Nacional de Educación Superior Ciencia y Tecnología (programa INEDITA; project: Respuestas a la crisis de biodiversidad: la descripción de especies como herramienta de conservación; No 00110378), Programa de las Naciones Unidas (PNUD), and Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ).

Special thanks to Annalaura Averill-Murray for symbolically adopting the Golden-bellied Snake and helping bring the Reptiles of Ecuador book project to life.

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Author: Alejandro ArteagaaAffiliation: Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador.

Photographer: Jose VieiraaAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,bAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Arteaga A (2024) Golden-bellied Snake (Erythrolamprus albiventris). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/LLLF9348

Literature cited:

  1. Dixon JR (1983) Systematics of the Latin American snake Liophis epinephelus (Serpentes: Colubridae). In: Rhodin AGJ, Miyamata K (Eds) Advances in herpetology and evolutionary biology. Museum of Comparative Zoology, Cambridge, 132–149.
  2. Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Guayasamin JM (2013) The amphibians and reptiles of Mindo. Universidad Tecnológica Indoamérica, Quito, 257 pp.
  3. Ramírez-Jaramillo S (2015) Observaciones sobre la historia natural de Erythrolamprus epinephelus albiventris en el valle de quito, Ecuador. Avances en Ciencias e Ingenierías 7: 5–7.
  4. Jose Manuel Falcón, pers. comm.
  5. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  6. Mafla-Endara P, Ayala-Varela F (2012) Pholidobolus montium (lagartija minadora). Predation. Herpetological Review 43: 137.
  7. Cadena-Ortiz H, Barahona A, Bahamonde-Vinueza D, Brito J (2017) Anecdotal predation events of some snakes in Ecuador. Herpetozoa 30: 93–96.
  8. Photographic record by Silvio Paladines.
  9. Morales MA (2004) Dinámica poblacional de las comunidades de anfibios y reptiles de siete localidades de la zona de amortiguamiento de la Reserva Ecológica Cotacachi-Cayapas, Esmeraldas, Ecuador. Universidad del Azuay, 122 pp.
  10. Copping R (1957) Reptiles and amphibians of the highlands of Ecuador. British Journal of Herpetology 2: 45–56.
  11. Carrillo E, Aldás A, Altamirano M, Ayala F, Cisneros-Heredia DF, Endara A, Márquez C, Morales M, Nogales F, Salvador P, Torres ML, Valencia J, Villamarín F, Yánez-Muñoz M, Zárate P (2005) Lista roja de los reptiles del Ecuador. Fundación Novum Millenium, Quito, 46 pp.
  12. MAE (2012) Línea base de deforestación del Ecuador continental. Ministerio del Ambiente del Ecuador, Quito, 30 pp.
  13. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington D.C., 882 pp.
  14. Jan G (1863) Enumerazione sistematica degli ofidi appartenenti al gruppo Coronellidae. Archive per la Zoologia, l’Anatomia et la Fisiologia 2: 215–330.

Appendix 1: Locality data used to create the distribution map of Erythrolamprus albiventris in Ecuador (Fig. 2). Go to the section on symbols and abbreviations for a list of acronyms used.

EcuadorAzuayChilcaplayaJosé Manuel Falcón, pers. comm.
EcuadorAzuayLos MonosReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorAzuaySarayungaJosé Manuel Falcón, pers. comm.
EcuadorAzuayVall de ChauchaDixon 1983
EcuadorAzuayYunguillaJosé Manuel Falcón, pers. comm.
EcuadorBolívarBalzapambaDixon 1983
EcuadorBolívarChazo JuanTorres-Carvajal & Hinojosa 2020
EcuadorBolívarCumandá, 7 km NW ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorCañarFinca HuatacónReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorCañarLa TroncalMZUA.RE.0038; examined
EcuadorCarchiChicalUSNM 286302; VertNet
EcuadorChimborazoValle del ChanchánANSP 18119; VertNet
EcuadorCotopaxiBosque Integral OtongaThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorCotopaxiCutzualoMHNG 2442.053; collection database
EcuadorCotopaxiGalápagosMHNG 2411.041; collection database
EcuadorCotopaxiLas DamasMHNG 2458.021; collection database
EcuadorCotopaxiLas PampasCésar Tapia, pers. comm.
EcuadorCotopaxiNaranjitoTorres-Carvajal & Hinojosa 2020
EcuadorCotopaxiPalo QuemadoMHNG 2410.100; collection database
EcuadorCotopaxiPeñas Coloradas, SigchosTorres-Carvajal & Hinojosa 2020
EcuadorEl OroBella MaríaTorres-Carvajal & Hinojosa 2020
EcuadorEl OroChillaTorres-Carvajal & Hinojosa 2020
EcuadorEl OroChivaturcoGarzón-Santomaro et al. 2019
EcuadorEl OroEl ProgresoMHNG 2308.078; collection database
EcuadorEl OroGuanazánThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorEl OroMachala, 10 km SE ofDixon 1983
EcuadorEl OroReserva Biológica BuenaventuraTorres-Carvajal & Hinojosa 2020
EcuadorEl OroUrna de Buenaventura, 4 km W iNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEl OroZambotamboReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorEsmeraldasAtacamesMHNG 2221.057; collection database
EcuadorEsmeraldasCentro de Fauna Silvestre James BrownPhoto by Salvador Palacios
EcuadorEsmeraldasCube, 1.7 km E ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEsmeraldasEsmeraldasUSNM 232824; VertNet
EcuadorEsmeraldasMayronga, LagartoTorres-Carvajal et al. 2019
EcuadorEsmeraldasPajonalMorales 2004
EcuadorEsmeraldasPlaya RicaMNHN 1902.356; collection database
EcuadorEsmeraldasReserva Biológica BilsaOrtega-Andrade et al. 2010
EcuadorEsmeraldasReserva CanandéYánez-Muñoz et al. 2005
EcuadorEsmeraldasVicheHinojosa-Almeida 2021
EcuadorGuayasBalzarDixon 1983
EcuadorGuayasBucayPhoto by Keyko Cruz
EcuadorGuayasCapeiraPhoto by Eduardo Zavala
EcuadorGuayasTauraiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorImbaburaCabañas ColibríiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorImbaburaEl Refugio de IntagPhoto by Peter Joost
EcuadorImbaburaEl Rosario, 2 km E ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorImbaburaIntagPeter Joost, pers. comm.
EcuadorImbaburaIntag Cloudforest ReservePhoto by Carlos Zorrilla
EcuadorImbaburaLa Merced de Buenos AiresJesse Kimmerling, pers. comm.
EcuadorImbaburaLitaUSNM 232905; VertNet
EcuadorImbaburaParambaBoulenger 1898
EcuadorImbaburaReserva Los CedrosPhoto by Fernando Rojas
EcuadorImbaburaReserva ManduriacuThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorImbaburaReserva Siempre VerdeiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorImbaburaRío Aguas ClarasDixon 1983
EcuadorLojaAlamorDixon 1983
EcuadorLojaAlamor, vicinity ofReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorLojaCamino a VicentinoTorres-Carvajal & Hinojosa 2020
EcuadorLojaCelicaPhoto by Jorge Castillo
EcuadorLojaEl LimoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorLojaHuajalaTorres-Carvajal & Hinojosa 2020
EcuadorLojaSan RamónUSNM 232906; VertNet
EcuadorLojaY de BalsonesiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorLos RíosCentro Científico Río PalenqueKU 152605; VertNet
EcuadorLos RíosHacienda La ClementinaDixon 1983
EcuadorLos RíosRío BabaAMNH 110588; VertNet
EcuadorLos RíosRío Baba, 24 km S ofDixon 1983
EcuadorManabíVía a San IsidroPhoto by Regdy Vera
EcuadorPichinchaAlambiReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaAldea Ecoturística Puma SachaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPichinchaAlluriquínDixon 1983
EcuadorPichinchaAmaguañaHinojosa-Almeida 2021
EcuadorPichinchaBarrio RunahurcoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPichinchaBellavista Cloudforest ReservePascal Vagner
EcuadorPichinchaBelow PactoDixon 1983
EcuadorPichinchaBirdwatcher HouseReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaBosque Protector VerdecochaYánez-Muñoz et al. 2009
EcuadorPichinchaBosque Seco Nueva Esperanza–GuayllabambaYánez-Muñoz et al. 2009
EcuadorPichinchaCalacali–Nanegalito roadReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaCarcelénValencia et al. 2017
EcuadorPichinchaCarcelén BajoValencia et al. 2017
EcuadorPichinchaCarretasValencia et al. 2017
EcuadorPichinchaCayambeMHNG 2399.099; collection database
EcuadorPichinchaCerro MontecristiValencia et al. 2017
EcuadorPichinchaChecaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPichinchaChiribogaMHNG 2221.055; collection database
EcuadorPichinchaClub Los ChillosTorres-Carvajal & Hinojosa 2020
EcuadorPichinchaDos PuentesPhoto by René Lima
EcuadorPichinchaDos Ríos, 3.7 km NE ofKU 142807; VertNet
EcuadorPichinchaDowntown MindoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaEl CedralReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaEl PancilloValencia et al. 2017
EcuadorPichinchaEl QuincheArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorPichinchaEl TingoMHNG 2442.054; collection database
EcuadorPichinchaEstación La FavoritaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPichinchaGualeaDixon 1983
EcuadorPichinchaGuápuloThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorPichinchaHacienda Las Palmas-Río BlancoYánez-Muñoz et al. 2009
EcuadorPichinchaHacienda OlallaDixon 1983
EcuadorPichinchaIlalóYánez-Muñoz et al. 2009
EcuadorPichinchaIngaArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorPichinchaKapariReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaLa ArmeniaTorres-Carvajal & Hinojosa 2020
EcuadorPichinchaLa HesperiaBrouwer 2018
EcuadorPichinchaLa Unión–Río CintoYánez-Muñoz et al. 2009
EcuadorPichinchaLas PalmasMCZ 164433; VertNet
EcuadorPichinchaLlamboDixon 1983
EcuadorPichinchaLos BancosiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPichinchaMachachiArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorPichinchaMalchinguíPhoto by José Campaña
EcuadorPichinchaMashpiReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaMilpeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaMindo LindoPhoto by Heike Brieschke
EcuadorPichinchaMindo–CunucoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaMindo–Las CascadasPhoto by David Hamill
EcuadorPichinchaMindo, 4 km N ofDixon 1983
EcuadorPichinchaMolinucoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPichinchaNanegalitoMHNG 2442.057
EcuadorPichinchaNanegalito–MindoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaNanegalito, 1.5 km E ofDixon 1983
EcuadorPichinchaNear NanegalitoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaNonoPhoto by Jaime Cháves
EcuadorPichinchaNono–Mindo roadReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaNono, 13 km NW ofKU 158534; VertNet
EcuadorPichinchaNono, 4.5 km NW ofKU 218423; VertNet
EcuadorPichinchaNuevo AeropuertoPhoto by Eduardo Toral
EcuadorPichinchaPachijalPhoto by Vinicio Perez
EcuadorPichinchaParque de la MujerValencia et al. 2017
EcuadorPichinchaParque ItchimbíaYánez-Muñoz et al. 2009
EcuadorPichinchaParque Los MastodontesValencia et al. 2017
EcuadorPichinchaParque MetropolitanoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaPifoArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorPichinchaPintagReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaPuerto QuitoMCZ 164502; VertNet
EcuadorPichinchaPulhulahua ReserveiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPichinchaQuito, 12 de OctubreTorres-Carvajal & Hinojosa 2020
EcuadorPichinchaQuito, 15 km NE ofDixon 1983
EcuadorPichinchaQuito, Colegio San GabrielValencia et al. 2017
EcuadorPichinchaQuito, Jardines del BatánReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaReserva Las GralariasReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaReservorio CumbayáReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaRío BlancoDixon 1983
EcuadorPichinchaRío CintoPhoto by Lisa Brunetti
EcuadorPichinchaRío MindoDixon 1983
EcuadorPichinchaRío OritoTorres-Carvajal & Salazar-Valenzuela 2012
EcuadorPichinchaRío SaloyaDixon 1983
EcuadorPichinchaRío SilancheDixon 1983
EcuadorPichinchaSan RafaelRamírez-Jaramillo 2015
EcuadorPichinchaSan RoqueValencia et al. 2017
EcuadorPichinchaSanta Lucía AltaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPichinchaSanta Lucía ReserveSavit 2006
EcuadorPichinchaSaragoza–Río CintoYánez-Muñoz et al. 2009
EcuadorPichinchaSéptimo ParaísoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaTambo TandaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaTamboquindeYánez-Muñoz et al. 2009
EcuadorPichinchaTandapiKU 112272; VertNet
EcuadorPichinchaTandapi, 9 km SE ofAMNH 113020; VertNet
EcuadorPichinchaTandayapaMHNG 2444.055; collection database
EcuadorPichinchaTantiBoulenger 1884
EcuadorPichinchaTerrabambúReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaTerreno de Eric Osterman en MindoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaTola ChicaPhoto by Morley Read
EcuadorPichinchaTumbacoBoulenger 1882
EcuadorPichinchaValle de los ChillosThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorPichinchaWay to MashpiiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPichinchaYaruquíArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorPichinchaYellow HouseReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasBosque Protector La PerlaPhoto by Plácido Palacios
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasBosque Protector Río GuajalitoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasChiriboga, 4 km W ofKU 142806; VertNet
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasChiriboga, 8 km W ofDixon 1983
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasLa FavoritaReyes-Puig et al. 2015
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasLas PalmerasAMNH 6042; VertNet
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasMiligaliBoulenger 1883
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasRío MulauleDixon 1983
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasSanto DomingoDixon 1983
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasSanto Domingo, 5 km SSW ofDixon 1983