Reptiles and Amphibians of Thailand

Thailand's Snakes, Lizards, Turtles, and Frogs

Keel-bellied Whip Snake

Dryophiops rubescens

This snake is found in Thailand but not in Bangkok
Keel-bellied Whip Snake Brown Red Dryophiops rubescens borneo
Keel-bellied Whip Snake in Borneo (© Chien C. Lee)

English name: Keel-bellied Whip Snake (aka: “Brown Whip Snake”, “Red Whip Snake”)
Scientific name: Dryophiops rubescens
Thai name: งูหัวจิ้งจกลายกระ (Ngu Hua Jing-jok Lay Kra)

Description: To 100cm long. A very slender, somewhat flattened body. It is mottled grey to reddish-brown with both dark and light spots and flecks. Head has a dark brown eyestripe that splits into an additional two stripes on top of the head, where they are met with several light wavy stripes. Pupils are round. Belly is cream with brown flecks.

Similar Species: Speckle-headed Whip Snake has a longer, pointed snout, horizontal pupil, and fine speckling on the head rather than wavy lines.
Oriental Whip Snake has a longer, pointed snout, horizontal pupil, and lacks the wavy lines on the head.
Long-nosed Whip Snake has a longer snout with a nasal appendage, a horizontal pupil, and lacks the wavy lines on the head.

Relevant scale counts: 15 midbody scale rows of smooth scales. 9 supralabials. 211-240 ventrals, anal single, subcaudals 178-197.

Range: Cambodia and central Thailand south through Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Habitat: Lowland forest, especially in thick vegetation near the forest edge.

Contribution to the ecosystem: Feeds on lizards and frogs. Eaten by birds of prey and larger snakes.

Danger to humans: This snake has a weak venom and is not dangerous to humans.

Conservation status and threats: Though it has a wide distribution, this species is very rarely seen throughout its range and greater investigation needs to be done into its conservation status.

Interesting facts: Budak, a herp enthusiast in Singapore, reported coming across a Keel-bellied Whip Snake with a Common Flying Dragon (Draco volans) in its mouth.

Keel-bellied whip snake (Dryophiops rubescens) with a Common Flying Dragon (Draco volans) in its mouth.
Budak / CC BY-NC-SA

It’s interesting to ponder how the snake may have caught the flying dragon, a quick, alert lizard that can easily jump from tree to tree. Did it stealthily follow a scent trail and then surprise the lizard in its sleep? Did it see the lizard land and then manage to sneak up and snatch the lizard without disturbing it? Or, as Budak suggests and is perhaps most likely, did it just get lucky and have the flying dragon land right next to it, oblivious to the motionless, well-camouflaged 50cm snake that blended right in to the tree trunk?

References:
Ecology Asia: Keel-bellied Whip Snake
The Annotated Budak: The legless and the luckless
IUCN Red List: Dryophiops rubescens
A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia

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