Cape Wolf Snake

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A cape wolf snake (Lycophidion capense jacksoni) made its way up a tree trunk near my house just a few hours ago. Though lacking in color, this small colubrid’s gray-tipped black scales give it a beautiful spotted appearance from a distance. Lycophidion is nocturnal and primarily feeds on small skinks and geckos. Its head is flat and wide, allowing the snake to wedge between crevices to hunt and stay hidden during the day. This genus is so remarkably similar in morphology to Lycodon I’ve encountered in Southeast Asia, that I was surprised to find out that are not very closely related, with Lycophidion being in the Lamprophiinae. A cool example of striking convergence. Like Lycodon, Lycophidion is a skilled climber and will position the body in a jagged shape across vertical trunks to maximize the surface area in contact with the substrate. While it moved along the trunk it would rotate its head to the side and jam it into tiny crevices, clearly looking for an escape from my head torch.

01/05/2019: Last night I found another cape wolf snake crossing the trail. In response to my disturbance the snake flipped its body violently into sinusoidal shapes. It even raised up the posterior portion of its body into a loop. I’ve only ever observed this type of behavior in the Australian bandy-bandy (Vermicella annulata), though coral snakes also behave similarly — with the exception of tail-curling as opposed to body-looping. Antipredator displays are some of the coolest behaviors to witness. It’s a mystery to me what kinds of nocturnal predators the wolf snake’s behavior is intended for and how these movements might trigger a recoil or avoidance response.

All photos taken after disturbance [4]

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