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Checkered Keelback

Xenochrophis piscator

This species is found in Thailand, but not within Bangkok itself

Checkered Keelback Xenochrophis piscator

Checkered Keelback found near fish ponds at night in Payao Province

Checkered Keelback Xenochrophis piscator Bangladesh

Checkered Keelback found at night in swamp forest in Bangladesh

Checkered Keelback Xenochrophis piscator

Checkered Keelback in fish pond in city park in India

Checkered Keelback Xenochrophis piscator India

Checkered Keelback found on riverbank field at night in India

Checkered Keelback  Xenochrophis piscatorkolkata india

Checkered Keelback found in ditch at night in India

Checkered Keelback Xenochrophis piscator

Checkered Keelback in polluted city canal in India

Checkered Keelback Xenochrophis piscator

Another Checkered Keelback found swimming in the same city canal

Checkered Keelback Xenochrophis piscator juvenile India

Juvenile Checkered Keelback flipped under tile in retreat center in India

Checkered Keelback Xenochrophis piscator juvenile head

Juvenile Checkered Keelback found under board in botanical gardens in India

Checkered Keelback Xenochrophis piscator

Checkered Keelback found dead in a major canal in a city in India

English name: Checkered Keelback
Scientific name: Xenochrophis piscator
Thai name: Ngu Lai-so Yai

Description: Up to 120cm long. Body is roughly cylindrical and of average girth. Eyes are large. Color is a checked pattern of black on olive-brown. In South Asian populations the black marks expand into large blotches. Two black streaks come down and back from the eye. Juveniles have a characteristic yellow mark on their neck that fades with age.

Similar Species: Yellow-spotted Keelback has a black streaks and blotches on the side rather than a checker pattern. It is a close relative and was once considered to be the same species.
Red-necked Keelback is more colorful and has a characteristic red neck. Juvenile Red-necked Keelbacks, which may not have developed the red neck yet, have a large black marking on the back of their neck that juvenile Yellow-spotted Keelbacks do not have.
Asian Water Snakes (subfamily Homalopsinae) generally have broader heads, smaller eyes, and much thicker bodies.

Habitat: In or near marshes, ponds, or rice patties, sometimes in the middle of urban areas. The Checkered Keelback is a a strong swimmer.

Contribution to the ecosystem: The Checkered Keelback eats fish, frogs, rodents, birds, and smaller snakes. The juveniles are eaten by larger snakes and birds.

Danger to humans: Will bite aggressively when provoked and can draw blood, but is not dangerous to humans. Though it has no venom glands, some people report itching and slight swelling after a bite.

Conservation status and threats: No known conservation threats.

Interesting facts: The Checkered Keelback and Yellow-spotted Keelback were once considered different color variations of the same species. They have since been split into different species, with the Checkered Keelback being found to occur only in western Thailand, Burma, southern China, Bangladesh, and India, but not in Bangkok.

The Checkered Keelback is one of the most adaptable snakes I have ever seen, able to survive in crowded cities and under water conditions that kill off most other native wildlife. It can be found almost any place where there is water and vegetation to hide in, and in much of its range it is the most commonly found snake.

References:
Snakes of Taiwan: Xenochrophis piscator
On the taxonomy of the Xenochrophis piscator complex
Siam-Info: Water Snakes
Thailand Office of Environmental Planning and Policy: A Checklist of Amphibians and Reptiles in Thailand
A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand
A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia

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