Atretium schistosum

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Olive Keelback
Olive Keelback water snake (Atretium schistosum) from Sri Lanka.jpg
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Atretium
Species: A. schistosum
Binomial name
Atretium schistosum
(Daudin, 1803)

The Split Keelback or olive keelback snake, Atretium schistosum, is a species of snake found in South Asia. It is a common and harmless watersnake.


Found in Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh and Nepal. In India it occurs in peninsular India south of latitude 15 degrees north and along the east coast to Uttarakhand. It is reported to be very common around Bangalore, North Arcot district (Tamil Nadu) and Kakinada area in Andhra Pradesh. Occurs up to 1000 m (3280 ft) above sea level. Absent from most of North India.


head details

It is a small, robust snake with thin head, short snout and slit nostrils placed rather high. The snake is olive-green and yellow to orange below. It is sometimes tinged with pink or purplish on the flanks. The length of the tail is one third to one-fourth of the total length.

The scales are rough because they are keeled. Specimens from South India have a distinct reddish line along the 5th and 6th or the 4th and 5th up to the vent. This line is brighter in the males. The females are between 70 and 75 cm long, and the males between 50 and 60 cm. The longest measured snake is 87 cm long.

The olive Keelback is found near water or among the surrounding vegetation.

Identifying characteristics[edit]

The snake is distinguished by a number of scale characteristics:

  1. Single internasal.
  2. Nineteen rows of costals.
  3. 8 or 9 supralabials (upper lip shields).

Can easily be confused with olive forest Snake (Rhabdops olivaceus).


Lives in water or among the surrounding vegetation.

A diurnal snake, it is seen at night also. The snakes rarely bite when handled. It is known to aestivate in the summer.

The olive keelback feeds mainly on frogs, tadpoles, fish and crabs which it catches with a side-stroke motion that is characteristic of watersnakes. The snake swims past the prey and suddenly snaps its head to the side. The olive keelback is also known to eat mosquito larvae (Whitaker).

Sometimes, referred to as a water-cobra, the olive keelback is nevertheless tolerated by people.


It is oviparous (egg laying). It breeds in the monsoon. The eggs, which are white, soft and 30 to 35mm in length, are laid in clutches of 10 to 32 in the months January to April. The newly hatched snakes measure 16.6 to 17.5 cm in length.

Local names[edit]


  • Boulenger, George A. 1890 The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma. Reptilia and Batrachia. Taylor & Francis, London, xviii, 541 pp.
  • Cantor, T. E. 1839 Spicilegium serpentium indicorum [parts 1 and 2]. Proc. Zool. Soc. London, 7: 31-34, 49-55.
  • Daudin 1802 Histoire Naturelle, Générale et Particulière des Reptiles. vol. 7. Paris: Dufart [1802], 436 pp.
  • Günther, A. 1898 Notes on Indian snakes in captivity. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (7) 1: 30
  • Wall, FRANK 1921 Ophidia Taprobanica or the Snakes of Ceylon. Colombo Mus. (H. R. Cottle, govt. printer), Colombo. xxii, 581 pages

External links[edit]