Published April 30, 2024. Open access.

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Cornaline Marsh-Snake (Erythrolamprus taeniogaster)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Serpentes | Colubridae | Erythrolamprus taeniogaster

English common name: Cornaline Marsh-Snake.

Spanish common name: Culebra pantanera cornalina.

Recognition: ♂♂ 54.0 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=43.4 cm. ♀♀ 71.1 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=58.4 cm..13 Erythrolamprus taeniogaster is a medium-sized snake having smooth dorsal scales arranged in 17 rows at mid-body.14 Dorsally, it presents a series of irregular dark brown blotches on a yellow background color (Fig. 1).2,4,5 The blotches enclose narrow yellowish streaks and are separated mid-dorsally by similar whitish bands.25 The ventral surfaces are bright orange-yellow to red with alternating black bars that correspond to the dorsal blotches.2,4,5 This species differs from E. breviceps by having eight, instead of seven, supralabials as well as by having broad pale interspaces instead of narrow white dorsal bands separating the dark blotches.6 From E. festae, it differs by having only one preocular scale.6 Juveniles have a conspicuous white nape band.4

Figure showing an adult female of Erythrolamprus taeniogaster

Figure 1: Adult female of Erythrolamprus taeniogaster from Tambopata Research Station, Madre de Dios department, Perú.

Natural history: Erythrolamprus taeniogaster is an extremely rare diurnal and terrestrial to semi-aquatic snake that inhabits rainforests, which may be terra-firme or seasonally flooded, usually in or around bodies of water.4 Cornaline Marsh-Snakes also occur in open fields, clearings, and disturbed areas.5,7 Individuals are typically active during the day or at dusk on leaf-litter, grass, or in streams.4 Cornaline Marsh-Snakes have an aglyphous dentition, meaning their teeth lack specialized grooves to deliver venom.8 They are active hunters having a diet composed of frogs, fish, and small lizards.4,9 Individuals are usually calm and try to flee when threatened, relying mostly on crypsis as a primary defense mechanism. Females have been found to contain 6 eggs,5 but the real clutch size is not known.

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..10 Erythrolamprus taeniogaster is listed in this category mainly on the basis of the species’ wide distribution, occurrence in protected areas, and presumed large stable populations. Therefore, the species is considered to be facing no major immediate extinction threats. However, some populations are destined to be extirpated due to the destruction and fragmentation of forested environments throughout Amazonia.

Distribution: Erythrolamprus taeniogaster is widespread throughout Amazonia in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador (Fig. 2), French Guiana, and Peru. The species also occurs in the in northern Atlantic Forest, forming a disjunct distribution, with scattered records in the Caatinga, and the Cerrado.

Distribution of Erythrolamprus taeniogaster in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Erythrolamprus taeniogaster 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),11 refers to the bright red body rings of some snakes in this genus (such as E. aesculapii). The specific epithet taeniogaster comes from the Greek words taenia (=ribbon) and gastros (=stomach).11 It refers to the ventral coloration.

See it in the wild: In Ecuador, Cornaline Marsh-Snakes are recorded no more than once every few years at any given locality. The two most recent observations date back to 2010 in Yasuní National Park and correspond to individuals found crossing forest trails during the day.

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

Photographer: Max BenitobAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Arteaga A (2024) Cornaline Marsh-Snake (Erythrolamprus taeniogaster). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/IKSM4610

Literature cited:

  1. Dixon JR (1983) The Liophis cobella group of the neotropical snake genus Liophis. Journal of Herpetology 17: 149–165.
  2. Dixon JR, Soini P (1986) The reptiles of the upper Amazon Basin, Iquitos region, Peru. Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, 154 pp.
  3. Fernandes DS, Germano VJ, Fernandes R, Franco FL (2002) Taxonomic status and geographic distribution of the lowland species of the Liophis cobella group with comments on the species from the Venezuelan tepuis (Serpentes, Colubridae). Boletim do Museu Nacional 481: 1–14.
  4. Duellman WE (2005) Cusco amazónico: the lives of amphibians and reptiles in an Amazonian rainforest. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 433 pp.
  5. 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.
  6. 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
  7. Rodrigues França FG, da Silva Bezerra E (2010) Reptilia, Serpentes, Dipsadidae, Liophis taeniogaster Jan, 1863: Distribution extension, new state record and geographic distribution map. Check List 6: 614–615 DOI: 10.15560/6.4.614
  8. Hurtado-Gómez JP (2016) Systematics of the genus Erythrolamprus Boie 1826 (Serpentes: Dipsadidae) based on morphological and molecular data. PhD thesis, Universidade de São Paulo, 62 pp.
  9. Cleiton Sousa J, Costa-Campos CE (2016) Erythrolamprus taeniogaster: diet. Herpetological Review 47: 682.
  10. Ines Hladki A, Ramírez Pinilla M, Renjifo J, Urbina N, Gagliardi G, Nogueira CC, Gonzales L, Schargel W, Rivas G, Silveira AL, da Costa Prudente AL, Argôlo AJS, Abrahão CR, Barbo FE, Costa GC, Pontes GMF, Colli GR, Zaher H, Borges-Martins M, Martins MRC, Oliveira ME, Passos PGH, Bérnils RS, Sawaya RJ, Cechin CTZ, da Costa TBG (2019) Erythrolamprus taeniogaster. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-2.RLTS.T15179400A15179403.en
  11. 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 taeniogaster in Ecuador (Fig. 2). Go to the section on symbols and abbreviations for a list of acronyms used.

ColombiaOrellanaNuevo RocafuerteReptiles of Ecuador book database
ColombiaOrellanaTiputiniUSNM 232848; VertNet
EcuadorOrellanaEl CocaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanakm 39 on road to SPFTorres-Carvajal & Hinojosa 2020
EcuadorOrellanaNapo Wildlife CenteriNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPastazaMontalvoDixon 1983
EcuadorPastazaWayusentsaNogueira et al. 2019
EcuadorSucumbíosLimoncocha Biological ReserveDixon 1983
EcuadorSucumbíosSanta Cecilia Dixon 1983; Duellman 1978
PerúLoretoPuerto SoledadiNaturalist; photo examined
PerúLoretoRequenaDixon 1983
PerúLoretoYarina CochaDixon 1983