Brown vine snake

19. August 2013

The Brown vine snake Ahaetulla pulverulenta, is uncommon and endemic to South Asia and found in the Indian Western Ghats and Sri Lanka. They are classified as mildly venomous and ‘rear-fanged’ or opisthoglyphous which means that their fangs are located at the back of the upper jaw rather than at the front like in other snake species such as vipers or cobras. This species can be identified by its distinctive pointed head with an enlarged nose tip, a stripe passing through the eye and a dark brown rhomboidal mark on top of the head. The body is covered in wart like scales which are often described as a powdery brown colour.

The brown vine snake produces venom that is just toxic enough to paralyse its prey. They are diurnal creatures that grow up to 5 feet 10 inches (177.8cm) in length and have a brood size of about 6-12 young. Their habitat includes evergreen forest, semi-evergreen hill forest and tropical dry deciduous forests in plains and hills which may be found close to human habitations. It is a diurnal and mainly arboreal species where its brown speckled skin is well camouflaged within the barks of trees, feeding on lizards, frogs and small birds. The brown vine snake has no real predators as it is a highly adaptable species.

We had a recent encounter with a brown vine snake at our campsite in Wilpattu National Park where the snake had caught a frog much larger than it could wrap its mouth around. The frog bloated its body in attempt to prevent the snake from engulfing it and the predator struggled to swallow its prey for more than an hour after which the frog gave up and slowly shrunk back to its original size. This is an excellent example of what an adaptable snake this is.