Published April 29, 2024. Open access.

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Royal Marsh-Snake (Erythrolamprus reginae)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Serpentes | Colubridae | Erythrolamprus reginae

English common name: Royal Marsh-Snake.

Spanish common name: Culebra pantanera real.

Recognition: ♂♂ 76.2 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. ♀♀ 81.0 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail..1 Erythrolamprus reginae can be identified by having smooth dorsal scales arranged in 15 or 17 rows at mid-body, a divided anal plate, and a unique coloration.14 The dorsum is olive-brown or dark reddish-brown with faint black speckling as well as a series of dark dorsolateral spots that coalesce into longitudinal lines towards the tail (Fig. 1).26 The ventral surfaces are yellowish white or bright yellow, with black scales in a checkerboard pattern. The head is dark olive green with a dark postocular stripe and yellow lips.26 This species differs from E. lamonae by having thin, instead of broad, posterior lateral black stripes.7 From E. typhlus, it differs by having black-checkered yellow ventral surfaces.7

Figure showing variation among individuals of Erythrolamprus reginae in Ecuador

Figure 1: Individuals of Erythrolamprus reginae from Ecuador: El Chaco, Napo province (); Huella Verde Lodge, Pastaza province ().

Natural history: Erythrolamprus reginae is a terrestrial snake that inhabits pristine as well as heavily disturbed rainforests, occurring in higher densities along bodies of water such as streams, ponds, and seasonally flooded areas.28 The species also occurs in disturbed areas such as open fields and rural gardens.2 Royal Marsh-Snakes are typically seen active during sunny days, foraging on the forest floor or crossing dirt roads and trails.4,6 At night, they roost on low (0.3–2.3 m above the ground) understory vegetation.4,6 The diet in this species consists primarily of terrestrial frogs, tadpoles, and amphibian eggs,46 but also includes lizards (including Ameiva ameiva)9,10 and fish.3,10 The Royal Marsh-Snake, when cornered, expands the neck and anterior part of the body, creating a kind of hood. If captured, it resorts to musking and thrashing the body, but biting has also been recorded.4,8 There are published instances of predation on members of this species by other snakes (Clelia clelia and Drymarchon corais).2 The breeding season in E. reginae seems to take place year-round, with clutches consisting of 1–8 eggs.2,4,11

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..12 Erythrolamprus reginae is listed in this category primarily because the species is widely distributed, occurs in protected areas, and is able to tolerate some degree of habitat disturbance so long as forest remain.12 Although little is known about threats to this species, deforestation and the decline in the number of anuran prey due to pollution and emerging diseases could have a negative localized impact on some populations. The Royal Marsh-Snake can also be particularly affected by vehicular traffic, being frequently found dead-on-road throughout its range.

Distribution: Erythrolamprus reginae is widespread along Amazonia and adjacent forest biomes of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador (Fig. 2), French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela. In Brazil, the species also occurs in Cerrado, Caatinga, and in the Atlantic Forest.

Distribution of Erythrolamprus reginae in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Erythrolamprus reginae 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 reginae comes from the Latin regina (=majesty or queen).13

See it in the wild: In Ecuador, Royal Marsh-Snakes are recorded usually no more than once a month at any given locality. However, in areas having low vehicle traffic, such as in Napo Wildlife Center and Yasuní Scientific Station, individuals may be seen more frequently. The snakes may be spotted as they cross forest trails during sunny mornings.

Authors: Tatiana Molina-Moreno,aAffiliation: Departamento de Biología, Universidad de los Llanos, Villavicencio, Colombia. Sophia Hurtado,bAffiliation: Universidad ICESI, Cali, Colombia. Andrés F. Aponte-Gutiérrez,cAffiliation: Grupo de Investigación en Ciencias de la Orinoquía, Universidad Nacional de Colombia sede Orinoquía, Arauca, Colombia.,dAffiliation: Fundación Biodiversa Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia. and Alejandro ArteagaeAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.

Photographer: Jose VieirafAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,gAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Molina-Moreno T, Hurtado S, Aponte-Gutiérrez AF, Arteaga A (2024) Royal Marsh-Snake (Erythrolamprus reginae). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/QOPC1081

Literature cited:

  1. Dixon JR (1983) Systematics of Liophis reginae and L. williamsi (Serpentes, Colubridae), with a description of a new species. Annals of Carnegie Museum 52: 113–138
  2. Duellman WE (1978) The biology of an equatorial herpetofauna in Amazonian Ecuador. Publications of the Museum of Natural History, University of Kansas 65: 1–352.
  3. Dixon JR, Soini P (1986) The reptiles of the upper Amazon Basin, Iquitos region, Peru. Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, 154 pp.
  4. Martins M, Oliveira ME (1998) Natural history of snakes in forests of the Manaus region, Central Amazonia, Brazil. Herpetological Natural History 6: 78–150.
  5. Ascenso AC, Costa JC, Prudente AL (2019) Taxonomic revision of the Erythrolamprus reginae species group, with description of a new species from Guiana Shield (Serpentes: Xenodontinae). Zootaxa 4586: 065–097. DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.4586.1.3
  6. Duellman WE (2005) Cusco amazónico: the lives of amphibians and reptiles in an Amazonian rainforest. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 433 pp.
  7. Dixon JR (1989) A key and checklist to the neotropical snake genus Liophis with country lists and maps. Smithsonian Herpetological Information Service 79: 1–40. DOI: 10.5479/si.23317515.79.1
  8. dos Santos-Costa MC, Maschio GF, da Costa Prudente AL (2015) Natural history of snakes from Floresta Nacional de Caxiuanã, eastern Amazonia, Brazil. Herpetology Notes 8: 69–98.
  9. Avila-Pires TCS (1995) Lizards of Brazilian Amazonia (Reptilia: Squamata). Zoologische Verhandelingen 299: 1–706.
  10. Cunha OR, Nascimento FP (1993) Ofídios da Amazônia. As cobras da região leste do Pará. Papéis Avulsos Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi 40: 9–87.
  11. Fitch H (1970) Reproductive cycles in lizards and snakes. Museum of Natural History, University of Kansas, Lawrence, 247 pp.
  12. Arzamendia V, Catenazzi A, Fitzgerald L, Gagliardi G, Giraudo A, Gonzales L, Ines Hladki A, Nogueira C, Ramírez Pinilla M, Renjifo J, Scrocchi G, Urbina N, Williams J, Schargel W, Rivas G, Murphy J (2019) Erythrolamprus reginae. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-3.RLTS.T44581723A44581732.en
  13. 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 Erythrolamprus reginae in Ecuador (Fig. 2). Go to the section on symbols and abbreviations for a list of acronyms used.

ColombiaCaquetáBelén de los AndaquíesValderrama 2023
ColombiaCaquetáCartagena del ChairáiNaturalist; photo examined
ColombiaCaquetáFlorenciaCárdenas Hincapié & Lozano Bernal 2021
ColombiaCaquetáInspección de policía de AraracuaraBorja-Acosta & Galeano Muñoz 2023
ColombiaCaquetáLas CameliasCahueño & Barbosa 2022
ColombiaCaquetáPuerto AsisCárdenas Hincapié & Lozano Bernal 2021
ColombiaPutumayoAsisCárdenas Hincapié & Lozano Bernal 2021
ColombiaPutumayoReserva Fin del MundoiNaturalist; photo examined
ColombiaPutumayoReserva La Isla EscondidaiNaturalist; photo examined
ColombiaPutumayoRío PepinoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorMorona SantiagoComunidad AmazonasiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorMorona SantiagoGualaquizaMNHN 1906.242; examined
EcuadorMorona SantiagoMacasMHNG 2401.022; collection database
EcuadorMorona SantiagoMacumaDixon 1983
EcuadorMorona SantiagoNormandíaAMNH 35926; examined
EcuadorMorona SantiagoProcuraduríaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSardinayacuTorres-Carvajal & Hinojosa 2020
EcuadorNapoAhuano, 4 km SE ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorNapoEl CaprichoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorNapoEl ChacoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoEstación Biológica Jatun SachaVigle 2008
EcuadorNapoHuella Verde LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoRío CotopinoAscenso et al. 2019
EcuadorNapoRío HollínTorres-Carvajal & Hinojosa 2020
EcuadorNapoRío SunoAscenso et al. 2019
EcuadorNapoSanta CeciliaDixon 1983
EcuadorNapoWildsumaco Wildlife SanctuaryTorres-Carvajal & Hinojosa 2020
EcuadorNapoYachana ReserveWhitworth & Beirne 2011
EcuadorOrellanaAñanguiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaComunidad El EdénTorres-Carvajal & Hinojosa 2020
EcuadorOrellanaComunidad YanayacuTorres-Carvajal & Hinojosa 2020
EcuadorOrellanaConcepciónAscenso et al. 2019
EcuadorOrellanaDayuma, 6.4 km NE of Mikla CampiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaLoreto Dixon 1983
EcuadorOrellanaNapo Wildlife CenteriNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaRío PucunoAscenso et al. 2019
EcuadorOrellanaSan José de PayaminoMaynard et al. 2017
EcuadorOrellanaSan José Viejo de SumacoDixon 1983
EcuadorOrellanaTiputini Biodiversity StationCisneros-Heredia 2003
EcuadorOrellanaVía MaxusReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorOrellanaYarina LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPastazaAbitaguaDixon 1983
EcuadorPastazaAlpayacuDixon 1983
EcuadorPastazaArajunoDixon 1983
EcuadorPastazaCabeceras del BobonazaDixon 1983
EcuadorPastazaCabeceras del Río ArajunoDixon 1983
EcuadorPastazaCabeceras del Río CapahuariDixon 1983
EcuadorPastazaCanelosDixon 1983
EcuadorPastazaChichirotaDixon 1983
EcuadorPastazaCopatazaDixon 1983
EcuadorPastazaMeraDixon 1983
EcuadorPastazaMontalvoAlmendáriz 1987
EcuadorPastazaPavacachiAscenso et al. 2019
EcuadorPastazaPozo DantaFHGO 1262; Ortega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaPucayacuDixon 1983
EcuadorPastazaPucayacu (Río Pucayacu)Ascenso et al. 2019
EcuadorPastaza"Puyo "Dixon 1983
EcuadorPastazaRío CorrientesAscenso et al. 2019
EcuadorPastazaRío CurarayAscenso et al. 2019
EcuadorPastazaRío OglánAscenso et al. 2019
EcuadorPastazaRío PindoDixon 1983
EcuadorPastazaShellAscenso et al. 2019
EcuadorPastazaSumak Kawsay In SituBentley et al. 2021
EcuadorPastazaVillanoTorres-Carvajal & Hinojosa 2020
EcuadorPastazaZarentzaTorres-Carvajal & Hinojosa 2020
EcuadorSucumbíosDurenoDixon 1983
EcuadorSucumbíosGeneral FarfaniNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosLago AgrioDixon 1983
EcuadorSucumbíosLimoncocha Biological ReserveUIMNH 54665; collection database
EcuadorSucumbíosLumbaquiAscenso et al. 2019
EcuadorSucumbíosPlayas del CuyabenoUIMNH 82482; collection database
EcuadorSucumbíosSan AntonioiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosSecoyaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosSiete de JulioiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosTerritorio Cofán DurenoYánez-Muñoz & Chimbo 2007
EcuadorTungurahuaEl TopoDixon 1983
EcuadorTungurahuaRío NegroAscenso et al. 2019
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeAlrededores de Ciudad PerdidaTorres-Carvajal & Hinojosa 2020
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeConcesión Minera ColibríTorres-Carvajal & Hinojosa 2020
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeCopalinga LodgeiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeEl Pindal, 6 km E ofTorres-Carvajal & Hinojosa 2020
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeEstación Científica San Francisco, environs ofTorres-Carvajal & Hinojosa 2020
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeJardín del CóndoriNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeLas Orquídeas, 2.8 km S ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeSubcuenca del Río TundaymeBetancourt et al. 2018
PerúAmazonasAguaruna VillageMVZ 163288; VertNet
PerúAmazonasKayamasUSNM 316628; VertNet
PerúAmazonasLa PozaMVZ 175329; VertNet
PerúAmazonasTeniente PingloUSNM 566731; VertNet
PerúLoretoCentro UniónDixon & Soini 1986
PerúLoretoMishanaDixon & Soini 1986
PerúLoretoMoroponDixon & Soini 1986
PerúLoretoRequenaDixon & Soini 1986