Rufous beaked snake

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Rufous beaked snake - Rhamphiophus oxyrhynchus[1]
Rufous Beaked Snake Rhamphiophis oxyrhynchus in Tanzania 5042 Nevit.jpg
Specimen from the Prague Zoo
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Lamprophiidae
Genus: Rhamphiophis
R. oxyrhynchus
Binomial name
Rhamphiophis oxyrhynchus
  • Psammophis oxyrhynchus
    J.T. Reinhardt, 1843
  • Rhamphiophis oxyrhynchus
    W. Peters, 1854
  • Coelopeltis oxyrhynchus
    Jan, 1863
  • Rhagerrhis oxyrhynchus
    Günther, 1888
  • Rhamphiophis oxyrhynchus
    Broadley, 1998[2]

The rufous beaked snake (Rhamphiophis oxyrhynchus) is a species of mildly venomous snake endemic to East Africa. It is named for its hooked snout, which it uses to dig burrows, and for its reddish-brown back scales. It hunts small animals during the day with the help of its venomous bite.[3][4]


The two subspecies are R.o. oxyrhynchus (J.T. Reinhardt, 1843) and R.o. rostratus W. Peters, 1854.[1] Some authorities consider the latter to be a species, R. rostratus W. Peters, 1854.[5]


The rufous beaked snake is large and stout, with males reaching a maximum length of 1.1 m (3.6 ft) and females reaching 1.07 m (3.5 ft). It has a shortened skull, as with all beaked snakes, giving it a clear distinction between its head and body, as well as a dark brown eye stripe running down the side of its head.[6] Its eyes are large with round pupils. Its back ranges from grey to yellowish-brown to reddish-brown, and its belly is cream or yellowish-white.[7]

Geographic range[edit]

The rufous beaked snake's range includes north Botswana, north Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and Sudan,.


It primarily inhabits bushveld and thornveld (bushland) habitats.[7]


Diurnal animals, rufous beaked snakes hunt small animals, including other snakes, but stay in burrows during the hottest part of the day. In the summer, females lay eight to 17 cylindrical eggs with dimensions of about 36 mm × 21 mm (1.42 in × 0.83 in) over the span of several days.[7] The snake's venom, one of its components of which is a neurotoxin called rufoxin, causes hypotension and circulatory shock in small mammals, but is not dangerous to humans.[4][8]


  1. ^ a b "The Reptile Database". Retrieved 2008-12-03.
  2. ^ The Reptile Database.
  3. ^ "Rufous-beaked snake". National Zoological Park. Retrieved 2008-12-03.
  4. ^ a b Lumsden NG, Ventura S, Dauer R, Hodgson WC (February 2005). "A biochemical and pharmacological examination of Rhamphiophis oxyrhynchus (Rufous beaked snake) venom". Toxicon. 45 (2): 219–31. doi:10.1016/j.toxicon.2004.10.010. PMID 15626371.
  5. ^ Branch, Bill. 2004. Field Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Third Revised edition, Second Impression. Ralph Curtis Books. Sanibel Island, Florida. 399 pp. ISBN 0-88359-042-5 (Rhamphiophis rostratus, pp. 86-87 & Plate 34)
  6. ^ Carruthers, Vincent (2005). The Wildlife of Southern Africa: A Field Guide to the Animal and Plants of the Region. Cape Town: Struik Publishers. p. 95. ISBN 1-86872-451-4.
  7. ^ a b c Branch, Bill (1998). Field Guide Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa (Photographic Field Guides). Cape Town: Struik Publishers. pp. 86–87. ISBN 1-86872-040-3.
  8. ^ Lumsden NG, Banerjee Y, Kini RM, Kuruppu S, Hodgson WC (March 2007). "Isolation and characterization of rufoxin, a novel protein exhibiting neurotoxicity from venom of the psammophiine, Rhamphiophis oxyrhynchus (Rufous beaked snake)". Neuropharmacology. 52 (4): 1065–70. doi:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2006.11.002. PMID 17194464.