Rhabdophis tigrinus

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Rhabdophis tigrinus
Rhabdophis tigrinus IMG 6559.retouch.JPG
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Rhabdophis
R. tigrinus
Binomial name
Rhabdophis tigrinus
(F. Boie, 1826)
Map showing range of R. tigrinus
Range of R. tigrinus
  • Tropidonotus tigrinus - F. Boie, 1826
  • Amphiesma tigrinum - Duméril, Bibron & Duméril, 1854
  • Tropidonotus lateralis - Berthold, 1859
  • Amphiesma tigrinum - Hallowell, 1860
  • Tropidonotus orientalis - Günther, 1862
  • Tropidonotus tigrinus - Günther, 1888
  • Tropidonotus tigrinus - Boulenger, 1893
  • Tropidonotus tigrinus - Boulenger, 1896
  • Natrix tigrina - Stejneger, 1907
  • Natrix tigrina lateralis - Stejneger, 1907
  • Natrix tigrina lateralis - Glass, 1946
  • Natrix tigrina - Alexander & Diener, 1958
  • Rhabdophis tigrina - Malnate, 1960
  • Rhabdophis tigrina lateralis - Zhao & Jiang, 1986
  • Rhabdophis tigrinus formosanus - Maki, 1931
  • Natrix tigrina formosana - Maki, 1931
  • Rhabdophis tigrinus formosanus - Ota & Mori, 1985[1]

Rhabdophis tigrinus, the tiger keelback,[1] kkotbaem, or yamakagashi, is a venomous colubrid snake found in East and Southeast Asia. Many sources, though not ITIS,[2] recognize one subspecies, Rhabdophis tigrinus formosanus of Taiwan.[1][3]


The dorsal color pattern is olive-drab green with black and bright orange crossbars or spots from the neck down the first third of the body. The belly is whitish. The average length is usually 60–100 cm (24-39 inches).[4]

Geographic range[edit]

Found in eastern Russia (Primorskiy and Khabarovsk), North and South Korea, China (widespread, except in the western third and the extreme south; Zhejiang, Fujian, Jiangxi, Hubei, Guizhou, Sichuan, Gansu, Shaanxi and Inner Mongolia), on the island of Taiwan, in Vietnam and in Japan (Yakushima, Tanegashima, Kyūshū, Shikoku, Honshu, Osaka and in the Ryukyu Islands). The type locality given is "Japan".[1]

Feeding and defense[edit]

The diet consists mainly of small vertebrates, especially frogs and toads. These snakes forage using both chemical (smell/tongue) and visual cues to find their prey.[5]

When these snakes are challenged at cooler temperatures they tend to demonstrate passive anti-predator responses such as flattening their neck and body and lying still while at higher temperatures they more frequently flee instead. This species has two nuchal glands in its neck that sequester steroid irritants obtained from eating poisonous toads as a predation defence. This snake thus appears to rely more heavily on the deterrence provided by these glands at low ambient temperatures.[6][7] Although venomous, few deaths have been recorded due to its tendency to display one of these other behaviors as opposed to striking. This hesitancy to strike at a predator in turn may be because its fangs are located in the back of the mouth, making a successful strike on a large object difficult.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d Rhabdophis tigrinus at the Reptarium.cz Reptile Database. Accessed 21 September 2008.
  2. ^ "Rhabdophis tigrinus". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 21 September 2008.
  3. ^ Hans Breuer & William Christopher Murphy (2009–2010). "Rhabdophis tigrinus formosanus". Snakes of Taiwan. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
  4. ^ Rhabdophis tigrinus lateralis at Animal Pictures Archive. Accessed 21 September 2008.
  5. ^ Tanaka K. (2002). "Foraging behavior of Rhabdophis tigrinus (Serpentes: Colubridae) in a gutter with a dense aggregation of tadpoles". Current Herpetology. 21 (1): 1–8. doi:10.5358/hsj.21.1.
  6. ^ Mori, A.; Burghardt, G. M. (2001). "Temperature effects on anti-predator behaviour in Rhabdophis tigrinus, a snake with toxic nuchal glands". Ethology. 107 (9): 795–811. doi:10.1046/j.1439-0310.2001.00706.x.
  7. ^ Hutchinson, D. A.; Mori, A.; Savitzky, A. H.; Burghardt, G. M.; Wu, X.; Meinwald, J.; Schroeder, F. C. (2007). "Dietary sequestration of defensive steroids in nuchal glands of the Asian snake Rhabdophis tigrinus". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 104 (7): 2265–2270. doi:10.1073/pnas.0610785104. PMC 1892995. PMID 17284596.
  8. ^ Sawai, Y.; Honma, M.; Kawamura, Y.; Saki, A.; Hatsuse, M. (2002). "Rhabdophis tigrinus in Japan: Pathogenesis of envenomation and production of antivenom". Toxin Reviews. 21 (1–2): 181–201. doi:10.1081/TXR-120004746.

Further reading[edit]

  • Tanaka K. 2002. Foraging behavior of Rhabdophis tigrinus (Serpentes: Colubridae) in a gutter with a dense aggregation of tadpoles. Curr. Herpetol. 21(1): 1-8.

External links[edit]