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Dolichophis jugularis (Black Whip Snake / Kara Yılan)

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Dolichophis jugularis (Black Whip Snake / Kara Yılan)

Dolichophis jugularis (Black Whip Snake / Kara Yılan) from Pendeya (Yeşilyurt) [Juveniles in Cannibalism/Gençlerde Yamyamlık], Lefke, KKTC/TRN Cyprıus - 16.09.2007.

Black Whip Snake, up to maximum 2.5 -even 3 m in Cyprus -total length, black when adult but grey peppered black and white when young (up to approx. 1 m), is an active diurnal snake with its ferocious, “relatively docile” behaviour. It is widespread in Cyprus, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel with a vertical distribution up to 1400 m. and represented with three subspecies in known distribution area:

C. j. jugularis, with red throat, in Anatolia and northern Syria,

C. j. asianus, with black and white throat, in southern Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Mediterranean Israel, and

C. j. cypriacus, with mostly black venter, anteriorly speckled with some red, which is an endemic subspecies of the island of Cyprus.

It lives in dry, open places, rocky river banks, rocky-stony slopes, fields and swamps; can also be seen in gardens, vineyards and cemeteries. It shelters under stones and in rodent galleries. It is a diurnal, very rapid snake, in hottest months often seen basking in early morning and late afternoon hours. It is rather shy, escaping rapidly and noisy when disturbed. If cornered, it hisses and strikes readily; large specimens even attack the enemy and follow it for several meters with elevated head and cranial part of the body. It is predominantly terrestrial, but it climbs well on bushes and swims well. It is known to feed mainly on rodents (especially mice and rats) and lizards; sometimes even on other or conspecific snakes (i.e., shows cannibalistic behaviour). Since it consumes crop-harming rodents, it was used in agricultural pest control in Cyprus. The prey is mostly killed in several coils of the body and then swallowed. It is an oviparous species, the females lay 5-15 eggs in rodent burrows, under stones etc. Since it consumes crop-harming rodents, it was used in agricultural pest control in Cyprus.

This snake species is, despite of its virtual harmlessness, one of the most feared snakes by the natives, thanks to its large size, diurnal lifestyle, intense hissing and striking when cornered. Therefore, it is often confused with uniform black venomous snake, Walterinnesia morgani (=W. aegyptia) (Desert/Egyptian Cobra) in some distribution areas (such as SE Anatolia, Syria and Jordan) where they were found in sympatric. It can be distinguished by the presence of a loreal scale on the head and the only divided subcaudal plates, also bigger eyes, diurnal life and different striking behaviour. In Desert cobra the loreal plate is lacked on the head, there is the mixture of divided and undivided subcaudals. Also the later is mostly nocturnal with a smaller size around 1 meter, and in comparison with Black whip snake, it moves slowly and mostly strikes with closed mouth.

Ps. This beauty is accepted as "holy" by Cypriots. And that many old people believe that each Black Whip snake represent "the spirit of the late son". Thus when they saw a black whip snake around their home, a dish full up with milk is put on the near of the threshold for its drinking.

References: 1. Göçmen, B. (Unpub. results). The results of herpetological trips. 2. Budak, A. & Göçmen, B. (2005). Herpetology. Ege Üniversitesi Fen Fakültesi Kitaplar Serisi, No. 194, Ege Üniversitesi Basimevi, Bornova-Izmir, 226 pp. [2nd Edition, 2008]. 3. Göçmen, B., Franzen, M., Yildiz, M. Z., Akman, B. & Yalçinkaya, D. (2009). New locality records of eremial snake species in southeastern Turkey (Ophidia: Colubridae, Elapidae, Typhlopidae, Leptotyphlopidae). Salamandra, 45 (2): 110-114. 4. Göçmen, B., Werner, Y. L. & Elbeyli, B. (2008). Cannibalism in Dolichophis jugularis (Serpentes: Colubridae): More than Random?. Current Herpetology, 27 (1): 1-7 [In English with English Summary]. 5. Atatür, M. K. & Göçmen, B. (2001). Amphibians and Reptiles of Northern Cyprus [Kuzey Kibris'in Kurbaga ve Sürüngenleri], Ege Üniversitesi Fen Fakültesi Kitaplar Serisi, No. 170, Ege Üniversitesi Basimevi, Bornova-Izmir, 63 pp (ISBN 975-483-486-5) [In Turkish & English, 63 pp.].


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Author Bayram GÖÇMEN
Created on Sunday 16 September 2007
Posted on Thursday 14 July 2011
Tags CYPRUS / KIBRIS, Nicosia / Lefkoşe
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