Readers’ Wildlife photos: Snakes!

by Grania

Tony Eales sent Jerry a fantastic email and photographs of snakes. He writes:


Snakes and lizards I’ve seen on various jobs.

A big ole Black-headed Python (Aspidites melanocephalus). I find them interesting because they don’t have the classic diamond shaped python head. I think this is because they hunt reptiles and so don’t have the infrared sensory pits. The black head is weird and makes them look like a venomous snake, they’ll even do a half-hearted threat display but they’re very placid snakes.


Eastern Brown Snake (Pseudonaja textilis). One of the snakes I most commonly encounter out and about and always gives me a start. They’re responsible for most dangerous attacks in Australia as they’re common and attracted to human habitation by the mice we have around us. In pure mice killing power they’re the second most venomous land snake in the world.


Frill-necked Lizard (Chlamydosaurus kingii). I don’t really like to provoke these guys into a display just for a photo. This is what they look like normally.


Golden Water Skink (Eulamprus quoyii) mid-sized to large skink but much more slender than the other common big boys like Blue Tongues. Pretty common where I am, good food for the enormous kingfishers.


Lace Monitor (Varanus varius). These big guys are often habituated to picnic areas and camp grounds. Can be pretty alarming to find sniffing around.


Lined Earless Dragon I think (Tympanocryptis parviceps). One and only time I’ve ever encountered these guys. If anyone has a better idea as to the species…..


Ring-tailed Dragon (Ctenophorus caudicinctus) again not really certain of my ID. Only time I’ve seen one of whatever it is.


Yellow-faced Whip-snake (Demansia psammophis) back to the common suburban snakes. One of my favourites, a beautiful little slender snake.



Thanks Tony, these are amazing.


  1. Dominic
    Posted July 22, 2015 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    All Australian?

    • Tony Eales
      Posted July 22, 2015 at 6:50 pm | Permalink


  2. Ken Pidcock
    Posted July 22, 2015 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Funny. What we call a brown snake in North America is the most docile little thing you could imagine.

    • darrelle
      Posted July 22, 2015 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      Yep. The English have got nothing on Australians when it comes to the art of Understatement (of coures there is a rather close relationship there). One of the most deadly snakes in the world? Let’s call it a brown snake (eh what{wot?}?).

      • John Scanlon, FCD
        Posted July 23, 2015 at 11:16 am | Permalink

        It could be a contraction of brown-trousers snake. 🙂

        As for understatement, I like the way our majestic eagle species, one of the largest in the world, is known as the ‘wedgie’. It sounds slightly more diminutive than ‘budgie’.

    • Diane G.
      Posted July 22, 2015 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

      Same thing I was thinking!

  3. mordacious1
    Posted July 22, 2015 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Yay!! Snakes!

  4. Mark R.
    Posted July 22, 2015 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    What an abundance of reptiles you’ve captured. Fantastic! I’ve never lived in an area (sadly) that had more than a couple species of lizards and/or snakes. I had no idea monitors were indigenous to Australia. Monitors are some bad ass lizards.

    • Tony Eales
      Posted July 22, 2015 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

      Darren Naish from Tetrapod Zoology blog and podcast sells “Monitors are the best animals” tshirts. I got one for my son

  5. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted July 22, 2015 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Many historians have noticed that the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) are the only ones in which snakes are considered an embodiment of evil.

  6. Diana MacPherson
    Posted July 22, 2015 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    The earless dragon is my favourite. Look at the way he holds his mouth!

  7. Diane G.
    Posted July 22, 2015 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    What a wonderful passel of reptiles! Fascinating creatures! I love the way they highlight some of the great variation in scale types, from smooth to keeled to bead-like and more, often several types on the same animal.

    Super monitor portrait!

    Interesting how few venomous snakes are aposematic (coral snakes are the only ones that come to mind, anyway). Might that reflect on their potential predators, if they have any? Or perhaps they’re just mostly active at night when colors don’t matter? Obviously, crypsis is most important to quite a few…so perhaps it depends on their prey!

    • Tony Eales
      Posted July 22, 2015 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

      I think it does come down to them being ambush predators, being cryptic is more important and not a bad defense either. Several are quite strikingly marked underneath (red bellied black snakes come immediately to mind) and it’s in their threat posture that this warning would be seen. That reminds me some have blocks of colour like yellow, black or blue inside their mouths which would also feature in threat displays.

      • Diane G.
        Posted July 22, 2015 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

        Thanks, Tony! Makes sense.

        I was just down in my husband’s garden this evening taking a picture of a replete Massasauga. First he (hubby) led my to the place the snake had been when he first saw it, but alas, it was gone. I went back after a few minutes and found the snake under some green bean plants right next to where we’d been standing.

        Back on topic–I’d forgotten about those vivid ventrals! That’s always fun to see. That striking (heh) mouth coloration is something I’ll have to start paying attention to, but probably that would have to be in online vids, I suppose. (I live in Michigan.) For the most part, I imagine it’s something one really wouldn’t want to see in person from a venomous species!

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted July 23, 2015 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      I thought quite hard about this in connection with the Australian elapids (but didn’t get around to publishing yet, after this). There are actually quite a few boldly-patterned and presumably aposematic elapids in Africa and Asia, where they originated, as well as the Asian-derived Micrurus-group corals, many of which cruise around in daylight and are actively avoided by bird and mammal predators. The immediate sister group of the whole Australopapuan terrestrial group is the boldly-banded Sea-kraits (Laticauda) and one of the basal Australopapuan lineages is the even brighter black-and-yellow banded Loveridgelaps in the Solomon Islands. The whole aposematic-pattern thing craps out in Australia/New Guinea, except for one group of burrowers (these guys) that are too cryptic and defenceless for it to look like a good defensive adaptation.

      So I suggest that when elapids first arrived on this continent (early Miocene) they looked like friggin’ clowns, and promptly got eaten by naive and slow-learning marsupials who had never seen a venomous snake in the history of the universe (there were non-venomous ones here before that). Many dasyuroids (and omnivorous kangaroos and possums) would have quickly died in the process, and indeed there’s huge turnover of taxa in the group with the extinction of archaic groups (e.g. most of the thylacines) and mid-Miocene appearance of crown dasyurids. Meanwhile the marsupial predation attempts imposed strong selection for more cryptic patterns in elapids, because they weren’t working as a warning. About the same time as elapids, varanid lizards also arrived from Asia, and they had no problem preying on elapids (behavioural adaptations and venom resistance), having grown up in the same briar bush; that looks like one good reason why they ended up as dominant carnivores here instead of the mammals.

      I didn’t publish because it’s a Just So story that needs a more detailed fossil record and better phylogenies to become a testable model. Maybe soon.

  8. ToddP
    Posted July 22, 2015 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Great shots of some fantastic reptiles! Monitor lizards have always been a favorite of mine, especially the most beautiful lizard of all time, the Perentie.

    • Tony Eales
      Posted July 22, 2015 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

      Still to see one in the wild. Perenties are probably second to Thorny Devils of the lizards I want to see and photograph.

      • Diane G.
        Posted July 22, 2015 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

        Wow, those Perenties are gorgeous!

        To save someone else the trouble of googling them:

        (Google image page. I seem to recall that these urls don’t need to be messed with to prevent embeds but am taking off the http:// anyway. You may have to add it back.)

        • Diane G.
          Posted July 22, 2015 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

          And I was right.

  9. MadScientist
    Posted July 22, 2015 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    That’s funny – just the other day I was showing my daughter photos of the frilled-neck lizard and the lace monitor. Most photos of the frilled lizard were of agitated lizards in their threat pose, which I found annoying since people are obviously happy to irritate the lizard just for a photo.

  10. Shwell Thanksh
    Posted July 22, 2015 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    Had to look up the etymology of chlamy- to see what chlamydosaurus had in common with chlamydia.

    Latinized comb. form of Greek khlamys (genitive khlamydos) “short mantle, military cloak”

    Must’ve named it when it wasn’t frillin’!

    • Diane G.
      Posted July 22, 2015 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

      Thanksh, that’s interesting. 😉

  11. Compuholic
    Posted July 23, 2015 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    I had an encounter with an Eastern Brown Snake (or at least that what I think it was) when I visited Australia which really scared me at the time. As part of my vacation I went to a wildlife park with rock wallabies.

    Both sides of the way were lined with big rocks and when I entered the area there was a warning label not to deviate from the paths.

    While walking through the area a snake came out from between the rocks a couple meters in front of me and started slowly heading into my direction. I didn’t know what to do. In the end I decided to go to the side of the walkway to give the snake plenty of room and to remain very still and the snake simply passed by me at arms length.

    But since I knew that Brown Snakes have a reputation for being aggressive and I don’t have any experience with snakes this event certainly raised my heartbeat.

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted July 23, 2015 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      Would’ve for me too. Eastern Browns (much more than the various other Pseudonaja) don’t always need a reason to take offence. They believe in a ‘stand your ground’ law, know they can kill you and don’t really mind. Basically, they tend to be dickheads.

  12. aspidoscelis
    Posted July 24, 2015 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    Trivia: Aspidites do have infrared sensory pits. Or at least, -an- infrared sensory pit, along the upper edge of the rostral scale. One of my acquaintances on facebook posted photos recently… in the academic litreature, there seems to be only an abstract from an oral presentation that has not been published.

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