Friday, February 26, 2010

Mating Sri Lankan Rat Snakes

We have had Rat Snakes (more commonly called gerandiya's) in our garden for as long as I can remember. They are non-venomous snakes that feed on all sorts of reptiles, insects, birds and small mammals. Although I had been seeing them quite frequently, I had never seen them mating till last December. More info and images inside.

I was walking around the garden, with the camera in my hand, when I came across these two fairly large specimens mating. Since I hadn't seen two rat snakes of opposite sexes at the same time, I was quite surprised by the difference in colour. I'm still not a 100% sure if the colour is dependant on the sex as, according to some web sites, there seems to be a variation depending on the age of the snake.

As shown in the image above, the lower three quarters of the snakes bodies were entwined throughout. However, their fore-bodies were raised almost all the time. According to the gardener they had been in this position for a couple of hours. Although this statement has to be taken with a pinch of salt, they would have been locked in this manner for a considerable amount of time. They finally separated and quite literally went their own ways. After a short time the male (darker in colour) changed direction and followed the female. He was followed by a second male who was much smaller and hadn't been noticed by us. The second male may have been attracted to the area as a result of the pheromones being released.

The shot above shows the lower part of the two snakes. 

According to one of the websites I was reading, these snakes produce a variety of sounds, ranging from a hiss to a low growl! They also discharge a bad odour when they feel threatened. 

The rat snake is oviparous and clutches contain 9-14 eggs. Females are known to guard the eggs and incubation takes around 60 days. These snakes can also climb trees. When confronted their initial reaction is to escape as soon as possible but if cornered they can bite. Although they are non venomous, their bite can cause wounds.

These images were taken with a Canon 7D and a canon 100-400mm lens. The light wasn't great as the snakes were in the shadows and the garden in the background was quite bright. The snakes were also moving around a fair bit and getting a sharp capture was not easy. A flash would have been helpful but I didn't have one with me. I didn't want to use the on camera flash as it would have "flattened" the image.

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