Slowinski's corn snake
|Slowinski's corn snake|
This snake was long considered an intergrade subspecies of the corn snake (Pantherophis guttata) and the Great Plains rat snake (Pantherophis emoryi ), but it has recently been elevated to species status and named to honor the memory of Joseph Bruno Slowinski. These three sister-species are probably best identified in Arkansas by simply consulting a range map, given that their ranges in the state do not overlap.
Slowinski's corn snake is medium-sized, and colored grayish-brown, with a series of large, alternating, chocolate-brown blotches. These blotches are often bordered in black. It has a spearhead marking on the head. The belly is checkered black and white, giving it an appearance of maize. (Its close relative, the corn snake, gets its name for this belly pattern.)
While this species resembles superficially the prairie kingsnake (Lampropeltis calligaster), the spearhead marking present on the head of Slowinski's corn snake is usually sufficient for identification. Its body has a rounded top, steep sides, and a flat belly.
The young of this species can be distinguished from those of the western rat snake (Pantherophis obsoletus) by considering the dark bar that runs through each eye. In Slowinski's corn snake, this bar extends through the jawline and onto the neck, whereas in the western rat snake the bar extends only to the jawline where it stops abruptly.
This species is nocturnal and quite secretive. Like its sister-species, the Great Plains rat snake (Pantherophis emoryi ), it is an excellent climber and likely spends a large portion of its time up in trees. These habits together may explain why it is so infrequently encountered by humans. Its nocturnal tendencies may also help it avoid dangers, such as day-foraging hawks.
Slowinski's corn snake is likely similar in temperament to its sister-species, the Great Plains rat snake, which is very tame. The corn snake relies mainly on camouflage for defense and rarely bites.
This species feeds primarily on small mammals and birds. Prey, when caught, is constricted and consumed. Presumably, it follows an activity pattern similar to other rat snakes: hibernate through winter, breed in the spring, and lay eggs in the summer.
Distribution and abundance
This species is known only from isolated localities in the southeastern part of Arkansas. Trauth et al. indicate only a single locality in the state, Drew County. The abundance of this species is largely unknown, but the lack of voucher specimens seems to indicate that it is extremely rare.
- "ITIS Standard Report Page: Elaphe slowinskii". Retrieved 2008-08-27.
- The Reptile Database. www.reptile-database.org.
- Beolens B, Watkins M, Grayson M. 2011. The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. (Pantherophis slowinskii, p. 246).
- Behler JL, King FW. 1979 (1987). The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd ed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 743 pp.
- Burbrink FT. 2002. Phylogeographic analysis of the cornsnake (Elaphe guttata) complex as inferred from maximum likelihood and Bayesian analyses. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 23 (3): 465-476. (Elaphe slowinskii, new species).
- Conant R, Collins JT. 1998. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. 3rd ed., Expanded. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. 616 pp.
- Irwin KJ. 2004. Arkansas Snake Guide. Little Rock: Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. 50 pp.
- Jiang ZJ, Castoe TA, Austin CC, Burbrink FT, Herron MD, McGuire JA, Parkinson CL, Pollock DD. 2007. Comparative mitochondrial genomics of snakes: extraordinary substitution rate dynamics and functionality of the duplicate control region. BMC Evolutionary Biology 7:123. (Pantherophis slowinskii, new combination).
- Trauth SE, Robison HW, Plummer MV. 2004. Amphibians and Reptiles of Arkansas. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press. 421 pp. ISBN 1557287384.