Xenopeltis hainanensis

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Xenopeltis hainanensis
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Xenopeltidae
Genus: Xenopeltis
Species: X. hainanensis
Binomial name
Xenopeltis hainanensis
Hu & Zhao, 1972

Xenopeltis hainanensis jidamingae - Zhao 1995

Common names: sunbeam snake.[2]

Xenopeltis hainanensis is a non-venomous sunbeam snake species found in China and Vietnam. This is a primitive snake known for its highly iridescent scales. No subspecies are currently recognized.[3]


This snake grows to an average of about .5 to 1 m. A fossorial species, the head is wedge-shaped and narrow with little neck delineation, which makes it easy to push through the soil. Its most defining characteristic is its iridescent, highly polished scales that give this snake its common name (sunbeam snake). The dorsal scales a layer of dark (indigo-brown) pigmentation just below the surface on each scale that enhances the iridescence. The ventral scales are greyish-white.

This species differs from its sister taxon Xenopeltis unicolor in several ways. It has a singular postocular scale rather than two, fewer ventral, supralabial, and infralabial scales, a shorter tail, and fewer maxillary teeth.[4]

The holotype of the species is Chengdu Institute of Biology specimen CIB 64III6016, a male collected in 1964. The paratype, CIB 64III6650, is a female collected the same year.

Both species together form the family Xenopeltidae, a primitive group of snakes with both boid and python characteristics.

Geographic range[edit]

Xenopeltis hainanensis is found in "isolated pockets"[5] of southeastern China (from Guangxi east to Zhejiang and south to Hainan) and northern Vietnam.[6] The type locality given is Dali village, Diaoluo Shan (Mount Diaoluo) on Hainan island, China.[7]


This snake tends to live on forest slopes, at heights between 900 and 1100 metres above sea level.


These snakes are not venomous, but are constrictors, killing their prey by suffocation in their muscular coils. They are fossorial and spend most of their time below ground.


The diet is varied, consisting primarily of frogs, reptiles, including other snakes, and small mammals. The young look very similar to the adults, except that they have a strong white "collar" of scales evident just below the head. This coloration fades within the first year.


This species of snake is ovoviviparous, with females laying up to 10 eggs at a time.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lau, M. & Zhou, Z. (2012). "Xenopeltis hainanensis". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2012: e.T192133A2044925. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2012-1.RLTS.T192133A2044925.en. Retrieved 15 January 2018. 
  2. ^ Mehrtens JM. 1987. Living Snakes of the World in Color. New York: Sterling Publishers. 480 pp. ISBN 0-8069-6460-X.
  3. ^ "Xenopeltis hainanensis". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 19 September 2008. 
  4. ^ Hu, S; Djao [Zhao], E; Huang, Z (1975). Translated by A Koshikawa. "Three new species of reptiles from Hainan Island, Guangdong Province". Acta Zoologica Sinica, Peking. 21 (4): 379–384. 
  5. ^ "Encyclopædia Britannica entry on sunbeam snakes". 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  6. ^ Nikolai L. Orlov; Robert W. Murphy & Theodore J. Papenfuss (2000). "List of Snakes of Tam-Dao Mountain Ridge (Tonkin, Vietnam)" (PDF). Russian Journal of Herpetology. 7 (1): 69–80. 
  7. ^ "Reptile Database entry on Xenopeltis hainanensis". Retrieved 2013-11-24. 

External links[edit]