Storeria dekayi

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For other species commonly referred to as the brown snake, see brown snake.

Storeria dekayi
Storeria dekayi 1.jpg
brown snake or De Kay's snake
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Storeria
S. dekayi
Binomial name
Storeria dekayi
(Holbrook, 1836)
Storeria dekayi map.svg
  • Coluber dekayi
    Holbrook, 1836
  • Tropidonotus dekayi
    — Holbrook, 1842
  • Ischnognathus dekayi
    A.M.C. Duméril & Bibron, 1853
  • Storeria dekayi
    Baird & Girard, 1853

Storeria dekayi, commonly known as the brown snake or De Kay's snake, is a small species of snake in the family Colubridae.[3][4] Seven subspecies are recognized as being valid.

Geographic range[edit]

Storeria dekayi is native to Southern Ontario and Quebec, most of the eastern half of the United States, through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and possibly El Salvador.[1][2]


Dorsally, Storeria dekayi is brown to gray with a lighter center stripe bordered by small black spots; ventrally, it is lighter brown or pink with small black dots at the ends of the ventral scales.[5] Adults usually measure less than 12 inches (30 cm) in total length (including tail), but the record total length is 19 38 inches (49 cm).[6] It has keeled dorsal scales, and no loreal scale.[7]


There are seven recognized subspecies of S. dekayi, including the nominotypical subspecies.[2][8]

A trinomial authority in parentheses indicates that the subspecies was originally described in a genus other than Storeria.


Like other natricine snakes such as water snakes (genus Nerodia) and garter snakes (genus Thamnophis), Storeria dekayi is an ovoviviparous species, giving birth to live young. Sexual maturity is reached at two to three years. Mating takes place in the spring, after snakes emerge from brumation. Between 3 and 41 young are born in late summer.[9]


Storeria dekayi primarily feeds on slugs, snails, and earthworms.[10][11] They have specialized jaws that allow them to remove snails from their shells for consumption.[9] Reports of other invertebrates (such as woodlice, mites, or millipedes) in the diet of S. dekayi are more than likely the result of accidental ingestion rather than intentional feeding, in which one of these invertebrates may have adhered to a slug or other prey item being consumed by Storeria dekayi.[12]


Storeria dekayi is a prey item for larger snakes, large frogs and toads, birds, and many mammals including cats, dogs, and weasels.[13]


The specific name, dekayi, is in honor of American zoologist James Ellsworth De Kay (1792–1851), who collected the first specimen on Long Island, New York, while the generic name, Storeria, honors zoologist David Humphreys Storer.[14][15]

This is the only North American snake whose binomial is a double honorific – that is, both the generic name and the specific name honor people.

The subspecific name, wrightorum (Latin, genitive, plural), is in honor of American herpetologists Albert Hazen Wright and Anna Allen Wright, husband and wife.[15]

Northern brown snake, S. d. dekayi


  1. ^ a b Hammerson GA, Mendoza-Quijano F, Lee J (2007). "Storeria dekayi ". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2007. Retrieved 23 March 2012.
  2. ^ a b c "Storeria dekayi ". The Reptile Database.
  3. ^ Stejneger L, Barbour T. 1917. A Check List of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. 125 pp. (Storeria dekayi, p. 98).
  4. ^ Wright AH, Wright AA (1957). Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada. Ithaca and London: Comstock. 1,105 pp. (in two volumes). (Storeria dekayi, pp. 697-714, Figures 205-209, Map 53).
  5. ^ Schmidt KP, Davis DD (1941). Field Book of Snakes of the United States and Canada. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 365 pp. (Storeria dekayi, pp. 227-228 + Plate 25).
  6. ^ Conant R (1975). A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Second Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. xviii + 429 pp. ISBN 0-395-19979-4 (hardcover), ISBN 0-395-19977-8 (paperback). (Storeria dekayi, pp. 153-156, Figure 35 + Plate 22 + Map 28).
  7. ^ Smith HM, Brodie ED Jr (1982). Reptiles of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. New York: Golden Press. 240 pp. (Storeria dekayi, pp. 158-159).
  8. ^ "Storeria dekayi ". ITIS (Integrated Taxonomic Information System).
  9. ^ a b "Animal Diversity Web: Storeria dekayi". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  10. ^ Gray, Brian S. (2013). "The relative importance of slugs and earthworms in the diet of Dekay's Brownsnake, Storeria dekayi, from northwestern Pennsylvania". Bulletin of the Chicago Herpetological Society. 48 (12): 157–165.
  11. ^ Gray, Brian S. (2015). "Natural history notes: Storeria dekayi: Diet". Herpetological Review. 46 (1): 108.
  12. ^ Gray, Brian S. (2013). "Natural history notes: Storeria dekayi: Diet". Herpetological Review. 44 (3): 527.
  13. ^ Szalay, Jessie (2016). "Facts About Brown Snakes". Live Science. Retrieved 8 July 2020.
  14. ^ Beltz E (2006). Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America – Explained.
  15. ^ a b Beolens B, Watkins M, Grayson M (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. (Storeria dekayi, p. 68; genus Storeria, p. 255; Storeria dekayi wrightorum, p. 289).

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Behler JL, King FW (1979). The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Knopf. 743 pp. ISBN 0-394-50824-6. (Storeria dekayi, pp. 654–655 + Plate 550).
  • 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. (Ischnognathus dekayi, pp. 286–287).
  • Clausen HJ. (1936). "Observations on the Brown Snake Storeria dekayi (Holbrook), with especial Reference to the Habits and Birth of Young". Copeia 1936: 98-102.
  • Conant R, Bridges W (1939). What Snake is That? A Field Guide to the Snakes of the United States East of the Rocky Mountains. (With 108 drawings by Edmond Malnate). New York and London: D. Appleton-Century. Frontispiece map + viii + 163 pp. + Plates A-C, 1-32. (Storeria dekayi, pp. 108–110 + Plate C, Figure 14; Plate 21, Figure 60).
  • Goin CJ, Goin OB, Zug GR (1978). Introduction to Herpetology: Third Edition. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman. xi + 378 pp. ISBN 0-7167-0020-4. (Storeria dekayi, p. 117).
  • Holbrook JE (1842). North American Herpetology; or, a Description of the Reptiles Inhabiting the United States. Vol. IV. Philadelphia: J. Dobson. 136 pp. (Tropidonotus dekayi, new combination, pp. 53–55 & Plate XIV opposite p. 53).
  • Morris PA (1948). Boy's Book of Snakes: How to Recognize and Understand Them. (A volume of the Humanizing Science Series, edited by Jaques Cattell). New York: Ronald Press. viii + 185 pp. (Storeria dekayi dekayi, pp. 26–28, 180).
  • Powell R, Conant R, Collins JT (2016). Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Fourth Edition. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. xiv + 494 pp. ISBN 978-0-544-12997-9. (Storeria dekayi, pp. 423–424, Figures 192-193 + Plate 42).
  • Zim HS, Smith HM (1956). Reptiles and Amphibians: A Guide to Familiar American Species. A Golden Nature Guide. New York: Simon and Schuster. 160 pp. (Storeria dekayi pp. 106, 156).