THE REPTILES OF AUSTRALIA - COLUBRID SNAKES

AUSTRALIAN REPTILE PHOTOS AND INFORMATION
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(NOT VENOMOUS)

AUSTRALASIAN KEELBACKS

or FRESH WATER SNAKES
Tropidonophis mairii

Harmless - however dangerous species may be mistaken for this species!

The two subspecies of Tropidonophis mairii are listed below

COMMON NAME

SCIENTIFIC NAME

DISTRIBUTION

Australian Keelback or Eastern New Guinea Keelback

Tropidonophis mairii mairii

Australia (New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia) and southeastern New Guinea

Western New Guinea Keelback

Tropidonophis mairii plumbea

New Guinea


AUSTRALIAN KEELBACK Tropidonophis mairii
The Australian Keelback (Tropidonophis mairii mairii) above was photographed at Deagon Wetlands - Qld

Approximate distribution of the Australian Keelback Tropidonophis mairii map
Approximate distribution of the Australian Keelback (Tropidonophis mairii mairii) which also occurs in southeastern New Guinea

Note that the other subspecies known as the Western New Guinea Keelback (Tropidonophis mairii plumbea) only occurs in New Guinea

Australian Keelback Tropidonophis mairii
The Australian Keelback (Tropidonophis mairii mairii) above was photographed at Deagon Wetlands - Qld

Australian Keelback Tropidonophis mairii
The Australian Keelback (Tropidonophis mairii mairii) above was photographed at Deagon Wetlands - Qld
Note the keeled scales, head scalation and shape

 

Australian Keelback Tropidonophis mairii
The Australian Keelback (Tropidonophis mairii mairii) above was photographed at Deagon Wetlands - Qld
Note the head scalation and shape as well as its forked tongue

Australian Keelback Tropidonophis mairii from Cape Tribulation National Park, Qld
This Australian Keelback (Tropidonophis mairii mairii) from Cape Tribulation National Park, Qld.

Keelback or Freshwater Snake
The Australian Keelback (Tropidonophis mairii mairii) above was found in Karawatha, (South-east Qld)

This Australian Keelback Tropidonophis mairii
The Australian Keelback (Tropidonophis mairii mairii) above was found in Nudgee, (Brisbane) Qld


This Australian Keelback Tropidonophis mairii  
This Australian Keelback (Tropidonophis mairii mairii) is from Northern Territory.

This Australian Keelback Tropidonophis mairii
This Australian Keelback (Tropidonophis mairii mairii) is from Northern Territory.

This Australian Keelback Tropidonophis mairii
The colour and pattern of the Australian Keelback (Tropidonophis mairii) varies in some areas

This is a very common snake in many areas, however it is often mistaken (and killed) as an Eastern Brown Snake (Pseudonaja textilis).
This species is believed to be able to tolerate eating small cane toads. It can be distinguished from an Eastern Brown Snake (Pseudonaja textilis) by its keeled scales.

IMPORTANT WARNING

Note the Australian Keelback is Non Venomous however the similar looking Australian Rough Scaled Snake is an extremely dangerous species with venom comparable to our most venomous species.


If you look at this photo you will notice that there is one large scale in front of the eye (preocular) and in front of that is the nasal scale. However the Keelback would have an extra scale called the loreal scale between those scales.


The harmless Keelback can be distinguished from the dangerously venomous Rough-scaled Snake by its divided anal and subcaudal scales (all single on the Rough-scaled Snake), dark sutures on its lips (patternless on the Rough-scaled Snake), a slightly up-curved mouth (straight on the Rough-scaled Snake), and the presence of a loreal scale.

Note that Keelbacks may have obvious lip markings where the scales meet (sutures) which are normally absent on the Rough-scaled Snake, however this is not a reliable method of differentiating the species.

Also similar looking and closely related species from overseas may be poisonous and or venomous
(Some bites have proved fatal or life threatening).

Of particular note are the Red-necked keelback
and the Tiger keelback (Yamakagashi  or Floral snake)

Serious bites from some overseas species previously believed to be harmless may show misleading symptoms of envenomation, and as the victim gets closer to death they may actually feel like they are recovering.

Also several overseas species have poison glands on their neck, which may contain toxins derived from Toads they have eaten. The thin skin covering the poison glands (not to be confused with venom glands) tears easily expelling the toxin.

Although these species may sometimes be reluctant to bite and were sold in the Australian pet trade in large numbers, extreme care should be taken with snakes resembling Australian Keelbacks.

 

LINKS OF INTEREST

Click here for more information about Australian Colubrids and Mud Snakes
Australian Herpetology Website


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Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia 7th Edition A Complete Guide to Reptiles of Australia 5th edition Edition

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Contact John Fowler Author of the Australian Herpetology Website, Pythons of the World, BoaSnakes.info, PetGecko.info and Holiday in Kos - Owner of the Adelaide Reptile Forum

Contact John Hollister Author of John Hollister Reptile Collection - Herping the Trans-Pecos & Sweetwater, Texas Rattlesnake Roundup

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Updated December 14, 2020

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