Published May 14, 2024. Open access.

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Satiny Parrot-Snake (Leptophis depressirostris)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Serpentes | Colubridae | Leptophis depressirostris

English common names: Satiny Parrot-Snake, Cope’s Parrot-Snake.

Spanish common name: Serpiente loro cobriza.

Recognition: ♂♂ 88.0 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=54.0 cm. ♀♀ 99.3 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=78.0 cm..1,2 Leptophis depressirostris can be identified by having a green (or copper in some young specimens) dorsum with prominent keels restricted to the paravertebral scales. There is a pair of thin black stripes coinciding with the keels as well as a narrow black postocular stripe (Fig. 1).35 This species differs from Leptophis bocourti and L. occidentalis by having a loreal scale.6 From Oxybelis brevirostris, it differs by having a round snout and keeled paravertebral scales.3

Figure showing variation among individuals of Leptophis depressirostris

Figure 1: Individuals of Leptophis depressirostris: Verdecanandé, Esmeraldas province, Ecuador (); Morromico, Chocó department, Colombia (); Tundaloma Lodge, Esmeraldas province, Ecuador (). j=juvenile.

Natural history: Leptophis depressirostris is an agile and fast-moving semi-arboreal snake that inhabits old-growth rainforests, occurring in lower densities in forest-edge situations and open areas such as pastures with scattered trees and rural gardens.3,7,8 Satiny Parrot-Snakes are diurnal. Their activity occurs at ground level on leaf-litter and grass as well on understory vegetation up to 5 m above the ground.7 At night, they roost coiled on branches and shrubs 3–6 m above the ground.3,8 The diet in L. depressirostris is primarily based on frogs, but also includes whiptails and anoles.3,7,8 A salient defense mechanism of the Satiny Parrot-Snake consists of inflating the neck and opening the mouth aggressively while striking repeatedly.3,8 Snakes of the genus Leptophis in general have an opistoglyphous dentition and their venom has hemorrhagic activities. In humans, it causes intense local pain and profuse bleeding from the bite site.3 Clutches of 3–5 eggs have been reported.1,3 One nest was found in bromeliads 3.5 m above the ground.3

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..9 Leptophis depressirostris is listed in this category because the species is widely distributed, occurs in many protected areas (at least 8 in Ecuador), and is considered to be facing no major immediate threats of extinction.9 However, this snake, a strict forest dweller, is under constant threat due to large-scale deforestation driven by agricultural and urban expansion.

Distribution: Leptophis depressirostris is widely distributed throughout Mesoamerica and the Chocó biome, from Nicaragua to northwestern Ecuador (Fig. 2), in both lowland and foothill areas.

Distribution of Leptophis depressirostris in Ecuador

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

Etymology: The generic name Leptophis comes from the Greek words leptos (=thin) and ophis (=serpent)10 and probably refers to the body shape of parrot snakes in general. The specific epithet depressirostris comes from the Latin words depressus (=pressed down) and rostrum (=snout).10

See it in the wild: Satiny Parrot-Snakes are found at a rate of about once every few weeks in well-preserved rainforests throughoutht their area of distribution. Prime locations for the species include Canandé Reserve and Mashpi Lodge, where these snakes are routinely spotted on vegetation along forest trails at night.

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

Photographer: Jose VieirabAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,cAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Arteaga A (2024) Satiny Parrot-Snake (Leptophis depressirostris). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/IDKA7720

Literature cited:

  1. Lewis TR (2004) Leptophis depressirostris (Satiny Parrot Snake): reproduction. Herpetological Bulletin 87: 31.
  2. Cope ED (1875) On the Batrachia and Reptilia of Costa Rica with notes on the herpetology and ichthyology of Nicaragua and Peru. Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 8: 93–183.
  3. Savage JM (2002) The amphibians and reptiles of Costa Rica, a herpetofauna between two continents, between two seas. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 934 pp.
  4. Pérez-Santos C, Moreno AG (1988) Ofidios de Colombia. Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali, Torino, 517 pp.
  5. Castro-Herrera F, Valencia-Aguilar A, Villaquirán-Martínez DF (2012) Diversidad de anfibios y reptiles del Parque Nacional Natural Isla Gorgona. Universidad del Valle, Cali, 112 pp.
  6. Albuquerque NR, Fernandes DS (2022) Taxonomic revision of the parrot snake Leptophis ahaetulla (Serpentes, Colubridae). Zootaxa 5153: 001–069. DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.5153.1.1
  7. Leenders T (2019) Reptiles of Costa Rica: a field guide. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 625 pp.
  8. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  9. Acosta Cháves V, Batista A, García Rodríguez A, Vargas Álvarez J, Gutiérrez-Cárdenas P, Bolívar W (2017) Leptophis depressirostris. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-2.RLTS.T203292A2763204.en
  10. 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 Leptophis depressirostris in Ecuador (Fig. 2). Go to the section on symbols and abbreviations for a list of acronyms used.

ColombiaNariñoEl PalmichalPinto-Erazo et al. 2020
ColombiaNariñoNariñoAMNH 106661; VertNet
ColombiaNariñoResguardo El HojaliNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorCarchiChinambíAndreas Kay
EcuadorCotopaxiBosque Privado JDLSTorres-Carvajal & Terán 2021
EcuadorEsmeraldasAlto TamboTorres-Carvajal & Terán 2021
EcuadorEsmeraldasCanandé ReserveiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEsmeraldasRío CanandéiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEsmeraldasRío CarolinaTorres-Carvajal & Terán 2021
EcuadorEsmeraldasSan Francisco del Río BogotáiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEsmeraldasTundaloma LodgeThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorEsmeraldasVerdecanandéThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorImbaburaCachaco–LitaTorres-Carvajal & Terán 2021
EcuadorImbaburaCerro PambilariNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorImbaburaLitaMHNG 2413.055; collection database
EcuadorImbaburaParambaMNHN 1898.298; examined
EcuadorManabíBilsa Biological ReserveTorres-Carvajal & Terán 2021
EcuadorPichinchaHacienda La HesperiaBrouwer 2018
EcuadorPichinchaMashpi LodgeiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPichinchaReserva MaquipucunaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaReserva Mashpi ShungoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasReserva OtongachiReptiles of Ecuador book database