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Herpetologica Hungarica- Part IV- Smooth snake2016-11-12

In the latest chapter of our series introducing local snakes species, we cover the Smooth snake (Coronella austriaca)...

Smooth snake (Coronella austriaca)- with the exception of Northern countries -is native to most European countries. It also occur in the middle East, including Turkey and Iran. The scientific name is a reference to the Austrian hatchment, the author Joseph Laurenti was reminded of by the snakes head pattern.

They can be found in various habitats; they often occur nearby human settlements, rural territories, fringe of the forests.

Newborn snakes feed mostly on arthropods, which they swallow alive. Adult snakes pray mainly other reptiles, especially lizards that they may or may not constrict before swallowing. Sometimes they subdue rodents and European adder (Vipera berus), as well.

Adult Smooth snake (Coronella austriaca) near Etyek, Hungary.

Young smooth snakes are as tiny as 15 cm in length, adults can grow up to 60-65 cm usually. They are ovoviviparous, which means that the entire embriogenesys takes places within the female’s body during the gravidity. Similar to other local native snakes species, copulations happen soon after spring warm ups, while gravid females give birth late summer.

Smooth snakes feature primary colors from greyish to any shades of brown. On the scruff, there are 2 distinct darker patterns visible, that in some specimens will merge into dim stripes on top of the back, while others feature rather heavy speckles on the back, instead of longitudinal stripes. The surface of the scales are smooth, hence the English name for the species. By appearance, Smooth snakes are often mistaken for Europrean Adder (Vipera berus) and killed for the misbelief they are poisonous. In contrast with the later, Smooth snakes have rounded pupils.

There are 3 subspecies currently recognized, a nominative (Coronella a. austriaca), which is native in most European countries, taxa called Coronella a. acutirostris is found in Portugal, while Coronella a. fitzingeri occur in South Italy and Sicily.

Adult Smooth snake (Coronella austriaca) near Etyek, Hungary.

Most specimens have calm behaviour. When distracted, they will either escape immediately or stay still as a rock. This specimen pictured above was apparently just fine with me kneeling next to it and photographing from as close as 5 cm.

As all Hungarian reptiles and amphibians, Smooth snakes are also strictly protected.

Dr. Botond Ádám

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