Leith's Sand Snake ( Psammophis leithii Günther, 1869 )

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Name
Scientific Name: 
Psammophis leithii (Günther, 1869)
Regional Names: 
English: 
Pakistani Ribbon Snake
Gujarati: 
પટીત રેતીયો સાપ
Photographs: 
Distribution: 
Found in continuous form in Western India from Dhule (Maharashtra), almost whole of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab; drier parts of Jammu & Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand and few parts of western Madhya Pradesh (Sheopur district).
Family: 
Characteristics for identification: 

Can be identified by checking light and dark brown stripes on dorsal body. In this species the topmost stripe is lighter and narrower than adjacent stripes. This helps in differentiating it from very close looking and sympatric species Condanarus Sand Snake (P. condanarus) which bears darker and broader stripe on the top.

Description: 

Average length- 70cm.
Maximum length- 90cm.

Dorsal -
Body thin, long, slender and covered with subequal smooth scales. Ground color pale yellowish-brown with four dark brown stripes running transversely along the dorsal body. Top two stripes leave a light color stripe of yellowish-brown color. Side stripes near to belly lighter than stripes present on top.

Ventral -
Belly scales with rounded edge. Color yellowish-white, often the yellow color confined on the middle and makes a throughout stripe while side belly remains white.

Head -
Head elongated, covered with smooth scales and broader than neck. Snout depressed, tapered over lower jaw and usually have no patterns on top with ground color yellowish-brown. Distinct ridge found between the top and side of head. Two dark stripes which are found on top dorsals starts from the top of the head in forked form by leaving a short median streak. Upper lip white which is lined by dark brown or black streak on both side of eyes, usually . Large eyes with rounded pupil.

Tail -
Long, slender and very thin tail having no dorsal stripes or the topmost dark stripes unite and retain to few portion of it.

Scalation
Head: 
Supralabial 8; 4th & 5th in contact with eyes; loreal 1; preocular 1; postocular 2; temporal 1+2; frontal long and narrow, broaden on front side. Maxillary teeth 11 or 12.
Dorsal: 
Smooth scales of similar shape in 17:17:13/15 rows.
Ventral: 
159-175 (Male), 170-187 (Female); rounded; anal entire.
Sub Caudal: 
104-109 (Male), 92-104 (Female); paired.
Habitat: 
Distributed mainly in two major areas deserts and semi-deserts of Western-northern India. Also found in grasslands, coastal lands covered with low shrubs, degrading dry & open scrub-lands of its range. Choose dense thorny bushes of low height and rock gaps for roosting and egg laying.
Natural History: 
Leith's Sand Snake is a diurnal and terrestrial species which often shows arboreal activity by climbing up to few heights of thorny shrubs for basking and foraging. Locomotion fast in serpentine motion. Behavior very alert, quick to respond and non-offensive. No specific display known to call it aggressive response and always try to escape on threatening. Oviparous. Female lays 4-10 eggs in mounds, holes, cracks etc. during summer months.
Diet: 
Feeds on lizards, bird chicks and small rodents by chasing them.
Threats: 
As this species survives well in tough ecosystem like deserts and semi-deserts, habitat loss appears not a very effective threat to it. Killing by humans and road kills can be direct cause of threats. However it should be noted that Leith's Sand Snake rarely encounters with humans and lives in and around scrub forests.
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