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Striped crayfish snake facts for kids

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Striped crayfish snake
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Genus:
Liodytes
Species:
alleni
Synonyms 
  • Helicops alleni
    Garman, 1874
  • Liodytes alleni
    Cope, 1892
  • Helicops allenii
    — Boulenger, 1893
  • Liodytes alleni
    — Stejneger & Barbour, 1917
  • Regina alleni
    — Conant & Collins, 1991

The striped crayfish snake (Liodytes alleni) is a species of semiaquatic North American snake that derives its common name from its principal prey, crayfish. This snake is also called Allen's snake, the striped swamp snake, the striped swampsnake, or simply the swamp snake. It is endemic to peninsular Florida. Although rarely seen due to its secretive behavior, it can be found in large numbers in wet areas, with densities approaching 1,300 snakes per hectare (525 snakes per acre).

Etymology

The specific name, alleni, is in honor of zoologist Joel Asaph Allen, who collected the type specimen.

Description

The striped crayfish snake is of "small medium" size, 33–50 centimetres (13–20 in) in total length (including tail), with a heavy body. The stripes which contribute to its common name are indistinct and located on the dark dorsal side. The ventral side is yellow with some dark spots. The dorsal scales, which are arranged in 19 rows at midbody, are smooth on the body, with some keeled scales in the anal region. There is a clear sexual dimorphism with the females being the larger sex. The striped crayfish snake is very similar to the glossy crayfish snake (Liodytes rigida rigida), but has one row of spots on the underside, whereas the glossy crayfish snake has two spots.

Natural habitat

The striped crayfish snake is a semiaquatic snake and is regularly found in swamps and open wetlands with heavy plant growth, cypress swamps, saw grass prairies, swamps, and roadside ditches. The snake has adapted well to the beds of water hyacinth that has taken over many waterways. Although the species is aquatic, they are rarely seen in moving water. The snake is primarily found in Florida, they are commonly found east of the central panhandle and in southeastern Georgia. The northern range limit is near the Florida-Georgia border.

Behavior and diet

Striped crayfish snakes are active throughout the year except for the coldest months of winter. When they are active, they typically can be found among the roots of aquatic vegetation, and on land beneath logs or organic litter. They are active in still water during the day and probably at night. On cool days, they find sunny areas on land to bask in.

The striped crayfish snake feeds primarily on crayfish. They use their coils to hold their prey while they consume them alive. Their teeth are small and very sharp, allowing them to grab and hold the hard outer covering of the crayfish. They typically swallow the crustacean tail first. Juveniles feed on insect larvae, most commonly the larvae of dragonflies and shrimp.

Reproduction

There is very little known about the reproduction of the striped crayfish snake. They probably mate during the spring season and the eggs hatch during the late summer or autumn. Clutches range in size from four to twelve eggs. Larger snakes usually produce more eggs than smaller snakes.

Predators and defense

Natural predators include great egrets, great blue herons, sandhill cranes, kingsnakes, cottonmouth snakes, large salamanders and river otters. When attacked or disturbed, the striped crayfish snake escapes into the water. The snake releases a strong odor from its scent glands when captured. They do not bite, but may thrash around vigorously when captured.

Conservation

Because the striped crayfish snake is dependent on a continuous and abundant supply of crayfish, any major changes to the crayfish supply, including destruction of the crayfish habitat, pollution and destruction of wetlands will be a threat to the survival of the striped crayfish snake. The species is not legally protected in Florida or George, but is considered a conservation concern.

  • Boulenger GA (1893). Catalogue of the Snakes in the British Museum (Natural History). Volume I., Containing the Families ... Colubridæ Aglyphæ, part. London: Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History). (Taylor and Francis, printers). xiii + 448 pp. + Plates I-XXVIII. ("Helicops allenii [sic]", p. 275).
  • Conant, Roger; Bridges, William (1939). What Snake Is That? A Field Guide to the Snakes of the United States East of the Rocky Mountains. (with 108 drawings by Edmond Malnate). New York and London: D. Appleton-Century Company. Frontispiece map + viii + 163 pp. + Plates A-C, 1-32. (ALLEN'S SNAKE, Swamp Snake, Liodytes alleni, p. 115 + Plate 22, figure 64).
  • Garman SW (1874). "Description of a New Species of North American Serpent". Proc. Boston Soc. Nat. Hist. 17: 92-94. (Helicops alleni, new species).
  • Powell R, Conant R, Collins JT (2016). Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Fourth Edition. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. xiv + 494 pp. ISBN: 978-0-544-12997-9. (STRIPED SWAMPSNAKE Liodytes alleni, pp. 412–413 + Plate 41).
  • Zim HS, Smith HM (1956). Reptiles and Amphibians: A Guide to Familiar American Species: A Golden Nature Guide. New York: Simon and Schuster. 160 pp. (STRIPED SWAMP SNAKE, Liodytes alleni, pp. 79–80, 156).
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