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Banded water snake
Nerodia fasciata CDC.png
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Genus:
Nerodia
Species:
fasciata
Synonyms
  • Coluber fasciatus Linnaeus, 1766
  • Tropidonotus fasciatus (Linnaeus, 1766)
  • Natrix fasciata (Linnaeus, 1766)
  • Natrix sipedon fasciata (Linnaeus, 1766)

The banded water snake or southern water snake (Nerodia fasciata) is a species of mostly aquatic, nonvenomous, colubrid snakes endemic to the Midwest and Southeastern United States.

Geographic range

N. fasciata is natively found from Indiana, south to Louisiana, and east to Florida.

In 1992, its congener Nerodia sipedon (northern or common water snake) and it were found in three sites in California by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). In 2009, more than 300 banded water snakes were caught in suburbs of Los Angeles by the Nerodia Working Group of USFWS. Then in May 2016, the species was found in the Colorado River basin near Yuma, Arizona. Further trapping did indeed catch large numbers of them, indicating that a thriving invasive population exists in that area.

Description

Adults of the banded water snake measure from 61.0 to 107 cm (24.0 to 42.1 in) in total length, with a record size (in the Florida subspecies) of 158.8 cm (62.5 in) in total length. In one study, the average body mass of adult banded water snakes was 464.3 g (16.38 oz).

It is typically gray, greenish-gray, or brown in color, with dark crossbanding. Many specimens are so dark in color that their patterning is barely discernible. They have flat heads, and are fairly heavy-bodied. If irritated, they release a foul-smelling musk to deter predators.

Their appearance leads them to be frequently mistaken for other snakes with which they share a habitat, including the less common, venomous cottonmouth.

Habitat

N. fasciata inhabits most freshwater environments such as lakes, marshes, ponds, and streams.

Diet

It preys mainly on fish and frogs. Using its vomeronasal organ, also called Jacobson's organ, the snake can detect parvalbumins in the cutaneous mucus of its prey.

Reproduction

The species is ovoviviparous, giving birth to live young. The brood size varies from 9 to 50. Newborns are 200–240 mm (about 8.0–9.5 in) in total length.

Subspecies

The three recognized subspecies of N. fasciata, including the nominotypical subspecies, are:

  • N. f. confluens (Blanchard, 1923)
  • N. f. fasciata (Linnaeus, 1766)
  • N. f. pictiventris (Cope, 1895) – Florida banded water snake

Taxonomy

Some sources consider N. clarkii compressicauda and N. clarkii taeniata to be subspecies of N. fasciata. Also, some sources have considered Nerodia fasciata to be a subspecies of Nerodia sipedon.


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