Biodiversity & Evolution

I’ll have the ‘Cuisses de Grenouille’ please

The family Colubridae is the most diverse family of snakes with almost 2,000 species, though this group is non-monophyletic (that is, in evolutionary terms, the group does not contain all descendants of the most recent common ancestral species).  Thus, this family requires a great deal of work by taxonomists to sort out the natural groups and determine relationships among them.

Leptophis is a genus of colubrid snakes, commonly called parrot snakes.  Parrot snakes are long, slender, bright green snakes found in the tropical forests of Central and South America.

The parrot snake shown in the first two images below, Leptophis ahaetulla (Colubridae), had just found itself a hearty meal. Despite having obviously lost this battle, the frog did not give up the fight so easily, as it kicked and squirmed until the very end. If you look at the expanded body of the snake you can see just how large this frog was – the snake was more than 4 feet in total length.  Notice that the skin stretches as the snake swallows the frog – the blue coloration is the skin beneath the green scales.

(Click the images to see them in full size)

Parrot snake (Leptophis ahaetulla)

Parrot snake (Leptophis ahaetulla) eating a frog, La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica

Parrot snake (Leptophis ahaetulla)

Parrot snake (Leptophis ahaetulla) eating a frog, La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica

The next three photos are a second species of parrot snake, Leptophis depressirostris, barely distinguishable from the species shown above except for one scale between the eye and the nostril (just learned this interesting fact today from a friend, Ethan).

In the picture below, this parrot snake is demonstrating its incredible and intimidating defensive display.

Satiny Parrot Snake

Satiny Parrot Snake – Leptophis depressirostris (Colubridae), La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica

Below you can see the body of a large tick, full of blood, attached under a scale on the snake’s neck.

Satiny Parrot Snake

Satiny Parrot Snake – Leptophis depressirostris (Colubridae), La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica

Satiny Parrot Snake - Leptophis depressirostris (Colubridae)

Satiny Parrot Snake – Leptophis depressirostris (Colubridae), La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica

4 responses

  1. Great photos, Dan! That defensive posture one is really striking. Good catch with the tick too…

    March 6, 2013 at 11:26 pm

  2. Thanks Michael! I really like the defense posture photo as well – I was lucky to get the timing and focus just right with that one.

    March 7, 2013 at 12:11 am

  3. The colors of that snake are amazing, as are your photos. As a former French major in college, I really enjoyed your title.

    March 7, 2013 at 6:54 am

    • Thanks Mike! I’m glad to know that the title caught someone’s eye! I also studied French, but it was in high school and I don’t remember much. Now I’m working on learning Spanish – as it is much more useful for the regions in which I prefer to work, mainly Central America.

      March 7, 2013 at 3:09 pm

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