Phipson's Shieldtail ( Uropeltis phipsonii Mason, 1888 )

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Name
Scientific Name: 
Uropeltis phipsonii (Mason, 1888)
Photographs: 
Pune, Maharashtra
Distribution: 
Found in western hills of Maharashtra above Goa gap and extends northwards upto up to Pune and surrounding hills. Type locality: Pune, Maharashtra.
Venom Type: 
N/A
Family: 
Characteristics for identification: 

Can be identified by checking combination of characters: Blackish-brown dorsal irregularly marked with fine yellow lines along the body, rostral as long as its distance from frontal and clearly flat caudal disc.

Description: 

Average length- 20cm. Maximum length- 30cm.
Body short, cylindrical and covered with glossy smooth scales. Dorsal color dark brown to glossy black with more of less fine yellow markings which include two series of fine lines along vertebra with which small dots or lines remain more or less connected somewhat perpendicularly. Usually a thick line runs along forebody or sometimes along whole body from posterior lips.
Belly more of less patched with yellow in irregular manner or remain patternless up to 2-4 dorsal rows.
Head small, not broader than neck, with moderately pointed snout and covered with large shields. Eyes small in the form of dot and covered by a large ocular shield. Color similar to dorsal, sometimes with irregularly arranged yellow dots on top shields. Upper and lower lip marked with yellow.
Tail very short, marked with thick yellow streaks on both sides of subcaudal and joined by same color band over anal. Caudal disc flat in sloppy manner, milti-carinated and ends with two spines lying side by side.

Scalation
Head: 
Snout alternate rounded; rostral visible from above; as long as its distance from frontal; separates nasals for more than half of their length; eye 1/2 of ocular shield; usually 4 supralabial which sometimes can be 5.
Dorsal: 
Smooth scales in 17 rows.
Ventral: 
138-157; anal divided.
Sub Caudal: 
7-12; paired; caudal disc flat.
Habitat: 
Found in low to moderate elevation forests of man made and natural forests. This species is one of the most widespread shieldtail in Maharashtra and can be seen in many hill ranges during monsoon months. Hides under rocks, loose soil, tree roots, deep cavities etc. during day time.
Natural History: 
Nocturnal and fossorial but sometimes seen at daytime in rainy days. Spends greater part of its life underground. Behavior calm, inoffensive and always tries to escape on encounter. On ground it attempts to dig a temporary burrow if provided with loose soil. Reproduction viviparous, female gives birth to 2-6 young individuals during early monsoon months.
Diet: 
Feeds on earthworms and small caecillians.
Threats: 
The true population of this species lives in and around hills of western Maharashtra only. In recent years these hills are going through massive anthropogenic activities like urbanization and destruction for plain lands. This is causing decline in population in many areas. During rainy days road kill mortality increases in whole of its distribution range which usually targets breeding population of this and many other snake species.
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