Published May 18, 2024. Open access.

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Rough Coffee-Snake (Nothopsis rugosus)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Serpentes | Colubridae | Nothopsis rugosus

English common names: Rough Coffee-Snake, Rugose Littersnake, Rugose Swamp Snake.

Spanish common names: Serpiente platanera, culebra granosa, falsa verrugosa.

Recognition: ♂♂ 43.3 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=30.0 cm. ♀♀ 42.0 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=32.0 cm..1,2 Nothopsis rugosus is one of the most readily recognizable snakes in the Chocó region. Its distinctive features include rough and granular scales not only on the body but also on the flat oval-shaped head, which enclose large plate-like frontal and parietal scales separated by rows of irregular and undifferentiated scales.24 Dorsally, N. rugosus exhibits an ochre base coloration with a series of large subtriangular dorsolateral spots that may be dark brown or black (Fig. 1).2,3 The belly has small dark spots on a cream background color.2,3 No other snake in the Ecuadorian Chocó region fits this description. However, this species mimics the juveniles of Lachesis acrochorda, from which it differs by lacking heat-sensing loreal pits.5,6

Figure showing variation among individuals of Nothopsis rugosus

Figure 1: Individuals of Nothopsis rugosus from Morromico, Chocó department, Colombia.

Natural history: Nothopsis rugosus is a rarely seen cryptozoic and semi-fossorial snake that inhabits pristine rainforests, occurring in lower densities in secondary forest and forest patches near peri-urban areas.69 Rough Coffee-Snakes are typically found active at night at ground level near thick accumulations of damp leaf-litter or along streams, rivers, and swampy areas of the forest.5,9 Their diet is composed of small lizards, frogs, and salamanders.2,6 The typical defense behavior of N. rugosus consists of feigning death or holding the body rigidly in a twig-like fashion.57 This species is oviparous, with clutches consisting of 2–5 eggs.8,10

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..11 Nothopsis rugosus is listed in this category because the species has presumed stable populations and a wide distribution spanning many protected areas.11 Nevertheless, at the national level in Ecuador, N. rugosus has been included in the Endangered category.11 Although it is clear that the species faces numerous threats in the Ecuadorian Chocó rainforest, such as rampant deforestation, its habitat in this country is still approximately 70% intact.13

Distribution: Nothopsis rugosus is widely distributed throughout Mesaomerica and the Chocó biome, from the Caribbean slopes of Honduras and Nicaragua through Panama and Costa Rica, to the Pacific lowlands of Colombia and northern Ecuador (Fig. 2).

Distribution of Nothopsis rugosus in Ecuador

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

Etymology: The genus name Nothopsis comes from the Greek nothos (=bastard) and opsis (=appearance), in reference to the putative mimicry of Bothrops atrox.2 The specific epithet rugosus is a Latin word meaning “wrinkled,”14 probably in reference to the rough and granular dorsal scales.

See it in the wild: Nothopsis rugosus is considered an uncommon species, with no more than 1–2 individuals recorded per month at any given locality. The best area to find this species in Ecuador is Tundaloma Lodge.

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

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

How to cite? Duque-Torres D, Aponte-Gutierrez AF, Molina-Moreno T, Arteaga A (2024) Rough Coffee-Snake (Nothopsis rugosus). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/TQQT2578

Literature cited:

  1. Dunn ER, Dowling HG (1957) The neotropical snake genus Nothopsis Cope. Copeia 1957: 255–261.
  2. Pyron R, Guayasamin J, Peñafiel N, Bustamante L, Arteaga A (2015) Systematics of Nothopsini (Serpentes, Dipsadidae), with a new species of Synophis from the Pacific Andean slopes of southwestern Ecuador. ZooKeys 541: 109–147. DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.541.6058
  3. Cope ED (1871) Ninth contribution to the herpetology of tropical America. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Science of Philadelphia 23: 200–224.
  4. Lotzkat S (2014) Diversity, taxonomy, and biogeography of the reptiles inhabiting the highlands of the Cordillera Central (Serranía de Talamanca and Serranía de Tabasará) in western Panama. PhD thesis, Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt am Main, 931 pp.
  5. Leenders T (2019) Reptiles of Costa Rica: a field guide. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 625 pp.
  6. 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.
  7. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  8. Solórzano A (2004) Serpientes de Costa Rica. Distribución, taxonomía e historia natural. Universidad de Costa Rica, San José, 792 pp.
  9. Sunyer J (2014) An updated checklist of the amphibians and reptiles of Nicaragua. Mesoamerican Herpetology 1: 186–202.
  10. Lee JL (2016) Nothopsis rugosus (Rough Coffee Snake): reproduction. Herpetological Review 47: 481.
  11. Sasa M, Porras LW, Köhler G, Nicholson K, Gutiérrez-Cárdenas P, Caicedo J (2016) Nothopsis rugosus. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T176869A1450542.en
  12. 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.
  13. MAE (2012) Línea base de deforestación del Ecuador continental. Ministerio del Ambiente del Ecuador, Quito, 30 pp.
  14. 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 Nothopsis rugosus in Ecuador (Fig. 2). Go to the section on symbols and abbreviations for a list of acronyms used.

ColombiaValle del CaucaBahía MálagaUNAL EB981; GBIF
ColombiaValle del CaucaBajo CalimaUVC-5349; GBIF
ColombiaValle del CaucaCharco los SábalosiNaturalist; photo examined
ColombiaValle del CaucaLa Barra, 4 km N ofiNaturalist; photo examined
ColombiaValle del CaucaPlaya DoradaiNaturalist; photo examined
ColombiaValle del CaucaPunta San PedroiNaturalist; photo examined
ColombiaValle del CaucaQuebrada ChingueroUVC-7163; GBIF
ColombiaValle del CaucaRío San JuanUVC-15267; GBIF
EcuadorCarchiTobar DonosoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEsmeraldasAngosturaMorales 2004
EcuadorEsmeraldasEstero AngosturaPazmiño-Otamendi 2020
EcuadorEsmeraldasEstero PoteMorales 2004
EcuadorEsmeraldasGualpíMorales 2004
EcuadorEsmeraldasLa TablaMorales 2004
EcuadorEsmeraldasPajonalMorales 2004
EcuadorEsmeraldasRío San MiguelMCZ 153146; VertNet
EcuadorEsmeraldasTundaloma LodgeMZUTI 3682; examined
EcuadorPichincaPachijalUSNM 232973; VertNet