Tantilla hobartsmithi

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Tantilla hobartsmithi
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Tantilla
Species: T. hobartsmithi
Binomial name
Tantilla hobartsmithi
Taylor, 1936
  • Tantilla hobartsmithi
    Taylor, 1936
  • Tantilla utahensis
    Blanchard, 1938
  • Tantilla hobartsmithi
    Stebbins, 1985

Tantilla hobartsmithi, commonly known as the southwestern blackhead snake, Smith's blackhead snake, or Smith's black-headed snake, is a species of small colubrid snake native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.


The specific name or epithet, hobartsmithi, is in honor of American zoologist and herpetologist Hobart M. Smith (1912–2013).[2]

Taxonomy and systematics[edit]

T. hobartsmithi was first described by Edward Harrison Taylor in 1936.


The southwestern blackhead snake is a small snake, growing to a maximum total length (including tail) of 15 in (38 cm), but typically averaging around 8 in (20 cm) in total length.

Dorsally, it is uniformly brown in color, except for the black-colored head, which gives it its common name, and a cream-colored or white collar. On the belly, there is a broad reddish stripe, which runs down the center of the ventral scales.[3]


T. hobartsmithi is rear-fanged, having enlarged rear teeth and a modified saliva, which while harmless to mammals, is believed to be toxic to arthropods, their primary prey.


Blackhead snakes (genus Tantilla) are primarily nocturnal and fossorial, spending most of their time hiding in loose soil, leaf litter, or under ground debris.


Blackhead snakes eat most varieties of soft-bodied insects and centipedes.

Geographic range[edit]

The southwestern blackhead snake is found in the southwestern United States, in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah, as well as in northern Mexico, in Chihuahua, and Coahuila, and Sonora.[4]

In California, it was sighted in Darwin Falls, Death Valley National Park, on May 18 of 2012, and in Jamul on May 16 of 2016. It has also been seen in Sedona Arizona of Yavapai County on April 11, 2005.

In Nevada, it was sighted in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area on May 1, 2017.

In Texas, it was found in Big Bend National Park on April 25, 2010.[5]


  1. ^ "Tantilla hobartsmithi ". The Reptile Database. www.reptile-database.org.
  2. ^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. (Tantilla hobartsmithi, p. 247).
  3. ^ Stebbins RC (2003). A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians, Third Edition. The Peterson Field Guide Series ®. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin. xiii + 533 pp. ISBN 0-395-98272-3 (paperback). (Tantilla hobartsmithi, p. 400 + Figures 28 & 29 on p. 398 + Map 177 on p. 503).
  4. ^ "Tantilla hobartsmithi". Discover Life. Retrieved July 9, 2006. 
  5. ^ "Smith's Black-headed Snake". Retrieved March 22, 2013. 

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Blanchard FN (1938). "Snakes of the Genus Tantilla in the United States". Zool. Ser. Field Mus. Nat. Hist. 20 (28): 369-376. (Tantilla utahensis, new species, p. 372).
  • Taylor EH (1936). "Notes and Comments on Certain American and Mexican Snakes of the Genus Tantilla, with Descriptions of New Species". Trans. Kansas Acad. Sci. 39: 335-348. (Tantilla hobartsmithi, new species, p. 340).