Brown Vine Snake
Rahul Alvares tells us how the brown vine snake is different from the green one. And no, it’s not just the colour!
Photo: Rahul Alvares.
Ask about the vine snake, and most people will probably say it is green and perfectly camouflages among plants and trees. But did you know that there are different types of vine snakes? And that they come in all sorts of colours ranging from green and yellow to orange, grey and brown. All of them are usually thin with long bodies and tails and sharp, triangular heads.
The brown vine snake Ahaetulla pulverulenta serves as an example of the fact that there isn’t just one solution to tackling the challenges of a given environment. After all, all vegetation is not green. Many parts of plants and trees are brown and on this kind of vegetation, a brown vine snake is obviously much better camouflaged than a green one. At any given point, one strategy might have an advantage over the other, but both strategies must work since both species of snakes continue to exist and thrive in their habitats.
The green vine snake is common in Goa. And surprisingly it isn’t restricted to plants and trees. I’ve often rescued green vine snakes from human habitations and once even pulled out one that was hiding inside a washing machine! The brown vine is a more difficult snake to find. The specimen in the photograph was actually rescued by a colleague of mine, Deepak, near the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary. Cotigao is about 90 km. from where I live in north Goa. Fortunately, I was already in Cotigao photographing butterflies at the butterfly park when Deepak called to give me this exciting news. I immediately decided to meet him to inspect and photograph this rare snake.
At first glance the brown vine snake looked very similar to the green vine snake. It moved and behaved much the same way. When threatened, it opened its jaws wide, displaying back fangs. Just like the green vine snake, it actually never struck to bite. But when I handled the brown vine snake, I noticed something remarkably different about its forebody. Fully inflated in a threat display, the forebody had the feel of a soft paper lampshade!
Checking my snake books, I later learnt that the green vine snake often comes in a brown form that can look very similarto a brown vine snake! Now I wasn’t even sure what I’d photographed! As it turns out, the brown vine snake has a longer snout compared to the green vine snake (or the brown form of it). In addition, the snout of the brown vine snake ends in a very noticeable swollen tip. Another characteristic that distinguishes this snake from other species of vine snakes is a horizontal eye stripe, which runs right through its eye on either side of its head.
Photo: Rahul Alvares.
Like other vine snakes, the brown vine snake produces a mild venom, which helps it paralyse small birds and lizards. The venom is too mild to affect humans to any noticeable degree and the snake is therefore considered harmless. The brown vine snake is exceptionally sensitive to movement and hunts in the day. It grows to an average length of about a metre. Like all vine snakes, the brown vine is ovoviviparous, which means fertilized eggs develop in the mother’s body and it seems as if she’s giving birth to live young.
Author: Rahul Alvares, First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXVI, No. 3, March 2016.