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  Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2018


Variable Reed Snake

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Species : Calamaria lumbricoidea
Maximum Size : 65 cm

The Variable Reed Snake occurs in primary or mature secondary forest in lowland to submontane areas, up to at least 1500 metres elevation.

Like most reed snakes, it spends much of its time burrowing under leaf litter on the forest floor. It may occasionally be encountered at surface, either after heavy rain, or when traversing  forested roads, or when in search of prey. It feeds on soft-bodied invertebrates, particularly earthworms (see Figs. 6 and 7), but reportedly may also take small frogs or lizards.

The species appears to be both nocturnal and diurnal.

The dorsal surface of adults is dark brown to black, with a bluish or purplish sheen under strong light. The ventral surface is yellow or white, generally with black banding.

Juveniles are dark above and pale below, with a pinkish-red head, and have thin pale bands across the back (see Figs. 4 and 5). Like adults, the underside is banded. Juveniles may be confused with the Pink-headed Reed Snake Calamaria schlegeli, however the latter lacks bands either on the back or belly.

As befits a burrowing mode of life, the body is cylindrical in cross-section, the head is no wider than the body, and the eyes are small.

The Variable Reed Snake ranges from southern Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore to  Borneo, Sumatra, Java and parts of the Philippines.

Fig 1 : Typical specimen (length 30 cm) from Fraser's Hill, Peninsular Malaysia (elevation 900 metres).

Figs 2 and 3 : Another specimen from Fraser's Hill with bluish iridescence.

Figs 4 and 5 : Juvenile, measuring around 12 cm, from Singapore's central forests, with typical red head and narrow bars on its body. Photos thanks to Linda Rance.

Figs 6 and 7 : A 25 cm specimen from Singapore, on a road passing through lowland forest, consuming a large earthworm.

Fig 8 : Typically the underside is pale with dark bands.

References : H3, H10, H12



Fig 4
ゥ  Linda Rance
Fig 5
ゥ  Linda Rance

Fig 6

Fig 7

Fig 8