Saturday, February 11, 2012

Creature Feature: Red-tailed Pipe Snake.

Google is a wormhole. It is perfectly possible to be looking for one thing and find another thing entirely. I had personally just discovered an albino sunbeam snake (which did not show the iridescence well if it was present at all) when another caught my eye.

This snake confused me. It was, for starters, hard to tell which end was the head and which was the tail. I thought I was looking at a baby cobra for a second. The actual snake turned out to be much more fascinating.

The specimen I had encountered online was a red-tailed pipe snake (Cylindrophis ruffus). They are small snakes (a meter in length at most) that live in China and Southeast Asia. As they are partially aquatic, they eat fish, eels, and frogs. They prefer wet areas like marshes and rice paddies. They aren't venomous, just strange. Seriously, Thailand advertises them.

Pipe snakes are seriously weird, even by snake standards. Along with boas, water snakes, and pure sea snakes, they have live babies. Litters consist of roughly 12 live babies. They are probably the closest relatives to boas, even though there are no boas in Asia (they all moved to America). Neat.

Oh, and the tail is pretty neat, too. Pipe snakes tend to have tails that look a lot like their heads. When a predator approaches, the pipe snake will lower its head and raise its tail, looking for all the world like a little cobra. The added bonus of this trick is that, should a predator still find it appetizing, it is biting the snake's tail instead of its head. Better tails than heads!

Mind, this is just one of several pipe snakes. Yes, they do all resemble the mythical, two-headed amphisbaena, but it would have been hard for the Greeks to know about them.


  1. You have an unfinished sentence in the third paragraph. Love the topic of this post. :)

    1. Thank you for the catch! :D Yeah, seems like one of those cool snakes nobody talks about except the hardcore reptile lovers.