Cape file snake

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Cape file snake
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Lamprophiidae
Genus: Limaformosa
L. capensis
Binomial name
Limaformosa capensis
(A. Smith, 1847)
  • Heterolepis capensis
    A. Smith, 1847
  • Simocephalus capensis
    Boulenger, 1893[1]
  • Mehelya capensis
    Rasmussen, 1981
  • Gonionotophis capensis
    Kelly et al., 2011
  • Limaformosa capensis
    Broadley et al., 2018[2]

The Cape file snake (Limaformosa capensis) is a species of large, non-venomous snake endemic to Africa, belonging to the family Lamprophiidae.

Geographic range[edit]

L. capensis is found from Natal northwards through the former Transvaal and Zimbabwe, and westwards to the Caprivi Strip and Namibia, thence northwards to Cameroon and Somalia.


L. capensis is a medium to large snake. With an average total length (including tail) of about 120 centimetres (3 ft 11 in), specimens of 165 cm (5 ft 5 in) total length have been recorded. It has a very flat head, and its body is strikingly triangular in cross-section.

The Cape file snake's dorsal scales are strongly keeled with extensive pink-purple bare skin between the scales. Its colour is mostly grey to grey-brown, but occasionally dark olive to purple-brown. The prominent vertebral stripe is white to yellow, while the belly is ivory white to cream.

The dorsal scales, in addition to the strong primary keel, have secondary keels and tubercles, but no apical pits. The dorsal scales are arranged in 15 rows at midbody (in 17 rows on the neck). The ventrals number 203-241. The anal plate is undivided. The subcaudals number 45-61, and are divided (in two rows).[1]


Limaformosa capensis prefers savannahs and coastal forests.


Though it is not venomous, the Cape file snake is a highly successful predator of other snakes, easily following a scent trail and apparently immune to all venom. It also preys on small vertebrates.


Rarely attempting to bite when captured, L. capensis may defecate in self-defence.[3]


L. capensis is oviparous. In the summer, an adult female may lay one or two clutches of eggs. Clutch size varies from 5-13. The eggs are large, 47–55 mm (about 2 inches) long, by 20–31 mm (about 1 inch) wide. Each hatchling is 39–42 cm (about 16 inches) in total length (including tail).[3]


  1. ^ a b Boulenger GA (1893). Catalogue of the Snakes in the British Museum (Natural History). Volume I., Containing the Families ... Colubridæ Aglyphæ, part. London: Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History). (Taylor and Francis, printers). xiii + 448 pp. + Plates I-XXVIII. (Simocephalus capensis, p. 345).
  2. ^ Species Limaformosa capensis at The Reptile Database .
  3. ^ a b Branch, Bill (2004). Field Guide to Snakes and other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Third Revised edition, Second impression. Sanibel Island, Florida: Ralph Curtis Books. 399 pp. ISBN 0-88359-042-5. (Mehelya capensis, pp. 78-79 + Plate 25).

Further reading[edit]

  • Broadley, Donald G.; Tolley, Krystal A.; Conradie, Werner; Wishart, Sarah; Trape, Jean-François; Burger, Marius; Kusamba, Chifundera; Zassi-Boulou, Ange-Ghislain; Greenbaum, Eli (2018). "A phylogeny and genus-level revision of the African file snakes Gonionotophis Boulenger (Squamata: Lamprophiidae)". African Journal of Herpetology 67: 43-60. (Limaformosa capensis, new combination).
  • Smith A (1847). Illustrations of the Zoology of South Africa; Consisting Chiefly of Figures and Descriptions of the Objects of Natural History Collected during an Expedition into the Interior of South Africa, in the Years 1834, 1835, and 1836; Fitted Out by "The Cape of Good Hope Association for Exploring Central Africa:" together with a Summary of African Zoology, and an Inquiry into the Geographical Ranges of Species in that Quarter of the Globe. Volume III. Reptilia. Part 26. London: Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury. (Smith, Elder and Co., printers). (Heterolepis capensis, Plate LV).