Bird Families

Yellow belly snake

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The inhabitants of Bashkiria are worried about the invasion of poisonous spiders - yellow heiracantium, or, as they are also called, yellow saks. Near Ufa, after being bitten by such a spider, two men asked for help from doctors, as reported by IA "Bashinform". They were taken to the infectious diseases hospital, where they were given IVs and injections. Two similar cases occurred last year in the Ufa suburb of Nagaevo. One of the local residents developed blood pressure after being bitten by a yellow saka, and the man almost fainted.

In the summer of 2018, yellow poisonous spiders appeared in the Rostov region. Residents of the Tatsinsky district found them in the courtyards of private houses and posted a photo on a social network to warn their neighbors. And in 2014, the Oryol media reported that yellow sak was found in the region. A spider bit a resident of the region on the lip and hand, as a result, the woman went to the infectious diseases hospital, complaining of an intolerable burning sensation and acute paralyzing pain.

What does yellow sak look like and where is it found?

The yellow sak has a yellow or beige belly with a stripe on the back. He has an orange head with powerful jaws. This spider is small, its length rarely exceeds 10 millimeters, females and males are approximately the same size.

Sak is active at night. The spider can live under stones, is able to settle in living quarters and inside cars. In agriculture, it is considered useful, because it actively destroys pests that are dangerous for the garden and garden.

Yellow sak lives in steppe areas in dry and hot climates. It is found in southern Europe, Central Asia, Africa, as well as Australia and America. Young individuals are able to move over large areas, flying on cobwebs using special flying threads. According to experts, the habitat of the saka has shifted due to climate change, spiders have appeared in Bashkiria, since the climatic conditions in the region have become more comfortable for them.

Why is a yellow saka bite dangerous?

As the Rosselkhoznadzor warns for the Oryol and Kursk regions, the poison of this spider poses a clinical danger to humans. The bite can cause severe pain and result in a necrotic ulcer. The department advises those who accidentally happen to be next to a spider to be extremely careful and bypass its clutches.

Experts say that the spider itself will not attack without reason, it can bite only when it feels danger to life. When meeting a predator or a person, a yellow saka can trigger a defensive reaction, and he is able to use his powerful jaws, Mikhail Krivosheev, director of the Zoological Museum of Bashkir State University, explained to the Bashinform agency. Scientist-arachnologist Alexander Gladkikh told the publication that a poisonous spider should be especially feared by people with allergies. In the event of a bite, the expert advises to disinfect the wound, take an antiallergic drug and consult a doctor. If a yellow sak is found in the house, you should not take it with your bare hands, but you can cover it with a jar on top, put a leaf underneath and take it away from the house.

Origin of the species and description

Photo: Yellow Belly Snake

The yellow-bellied snake is a large, non-venomous snake from the already-shaped family. In the past, Colubridae were not a natural group, as many of them were more closely related to other groups than to each other. This family has historically been used as a "trash bin" for various taxa of snakes that do not fit into other groups. However, recent research in molecular phylogenetics has stabilized the classification of "gut-like" snakes, and the family that is now defined as a monophyletic clade. However, in order to sort out all this, more research is required.

Since its initial description by Johann Friedrich Gmelin in 1789, the yellow-bellied snake has been known by many names in Europe.

The list of names is given below:

  • C. Caspius Gmelin, 1789,
  • C. acontistes Pallas, 1814,
  • C. thermis Pallas, 1814,
  • C. jugularis caspius, 1984,
  • Hierophis caspius, 1988,
  • Dolichophis caspius, 2004

This species includes subspecies:

  • Dolichophis caspius caspius - from Hungary, Romania, the southeast of the former Yugoslav Republic, Albania, Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Bulgaria, Greece, western Turkey, Russia, the Caucasus coast,
  • Dolichophis caspius eiselti - From the Greek islands of Rhodes, Karpathos and Kasos in the Aegean Sea.

Most of the gnarled are not poisonous or have a poison that is not harmful to humans.

Appearance and features

Photo: Snake yellow-bellied in the Rostov region

The yellow-bellied snake reaches a maximum total body length of 2.5 meters, and is considered the largest in Europe, but the usual size is 1.5-2 m. The head is oval, elongated, slightly separated from the neck. The tip of the nose is blunt and rounded. Tongue very long and relatively thick. The tail is long and thin. The overall ratio of the length of the snake to the length of the tail is 2.6-3.5. The eyes are large and have round pupils. The maxillary teeth are irregular in length, longer at the back of the jaw, with the last two teeth often separated from each other by a narrow gap.

Video: Yellow Belly Snake

Biometric data in the control test samples showed: total length (head + trunk + tail) in males - 1160-1840 mm (average 1496.6 mm), in females - 800-1272 mm (average 1065.8 mm). The length of the head and body (from the tip of the snout to the anterior edge of the cloacal fissure) in males is 695-1345 mm (on average 1044 mm), in females - 655-977 mm (on average 817.6 mm). Tail length: 351-460 mm (average 409.8 mm) in males, 268-295 mm (average 281.4 mm) in females. Head length (from tip to mouth): males - 30 mm, females - 20 mm. The width of the head (measured between the corners of the mouth) is 22-24 mm for males and 12 mm for females.

The yellow belly is characterized by smooth dorsal scales. Nineteen rows of scales can be found in the midsection of the body, although sometimes there may be seventeen. The dorsal scales have two apical fossae at the posterior margin. They are lighter in the center than at the edges. The snake's back is gray-brown and has markings that are characteristic of young snakes, but disappear with age. The ventral side is light yellow or white.

Where does the yellowbelly snake live?

Photo: Yellow-bellied snake

The yellow-bellied snake is found in the Balkan Peninsula, in parts of Eastern Europe to the Volga region and in a small part of Asia Minor. It can be found in the open steppe, in steppe and mountain forests, on the edges of steppe forests, in bushes near roads, in semi-desert, in sands and on slopes, near mountain streams, between bushes covered with vegetation, stones and rocks, on the slopes of valleys and ravines , on steep banks along rivers and dry reeds.

In the North Caucasus, the yellow belly penetrates into desert areas with sand embankments. During dry seasons, it is often found near riverbeds and even in swamps. Often crawls in search of food and places for laying eggs in various ruins, including ruins of houses, in household outbuildings or even in residential buildings, under haystacks, in gardens, on vineyards and other similar places. In the mountains it rises to an altitude of 2000 m.In the Caucasus, it occurs at altitudes from 1500 to 1600 m.

Populations of the yellow-bellied snake are recorded in countries such as:

  • Albania,
  • Bulgaria,
  • Macedonia,
  • Serbia,
  • Turkey,
  • Croatia,
  • Greece,
  • Romania,
  • in the south of Slovakia,
  • Moldova,
  • Montenegro,
  • on the south of Ukraine,
  • In Kazakhstan,
  • in the south of Russia,
  • in the south of Hungary,
  • Jordan.

Habitat can be distributed in lowlands near major rivers such as the Danube and the Olt River. Previously, it was assumed that the yellow-bellied snake became extinct in Moldova, eastern Romania and southern Ukraine, where only two habitats were known and the snake has not been observed since 1937. However, three specimens were collected in May 2007 in the Galati district of Romania.

In Hungary, it was previously thought that Yellowbelly only lived in two areas, but a recent survey of the region has identified several previously unknown habitats for these snakes along the Danube River. In southern Crimea there is an average of 1 specimen per 2 km², in northern Dagestan - 3-4 snakes per km², and in southern Armenia - on average 1 specimen per 1 km².

Now you know where the yellowbelly snake lives. Let's see what she eats.

What does the yellow belly snake eat?

Photo: Snake yellow-bellied snake

It feeds mainly on lizards: rocky, nimble, Crimean and sandy. Less commonly, chicks, birds and their eggs. And also by rodents: ground squirrels, rats, mice, gerbils, hamsters. Sometimes other snakes are included in the diet, including poisonous ones: the common viper and the sand epha, to the poisonous bite of which the yellow-bellied snake is indifferent. The snake rarely feeds on amphibians; it catches frogs in humid areas. Large insects and spiders can also fall prey to the yellow belly.

The snake can move through the burrows of rodents and destroy them. In search of food, it climbs trees, where it devastates the nests of birds that do not settle too high, but most often hunts birds nesting on the ground. In Crimea, reptile snakes' favorite food is lizards, snakes and mammals - ground squirrels, shrews, voles, mice, hamsters.

Interesting fact: In the Astrakhan region, a bad snake in semi-desert regions feeds on sand lizards and swift foot-and-mouth disease (31.5%), a quick lizard (22.5%), a field and crested lark, as well as a gray lark (13.5%), gophers (9%), ground squirrels (31.7%), gerbils (18.1%), mice (13.5%), hamsters (17.8%) and insects and spiders.

In captivity, young individuals prefer lizards, adults feed well on mice and white rats. This fast and powerful snake captures its prey with amazing speed. Small prey is swallowed alive by the yellow-bellied prey, without strangling it. Larger animals that offer resistance are preliminarily killed by pressing on them with a strong body or, grabbing them by the mouth and strangling them, wrapping themselves in rings around the victim.

Features of character and lifestyle

Photo: Yellow Belly Snake

The yellow-bellied snake overwinters in rodent burrows and other earthen shelters. Hibernation lasts about six months. For winter recreation, more than ten individuals often gather in one place. The yellow belly leaves the shelter in late April - early May, and begins to show activity in February - March, depending on the terrain, until September-October. In Crimea and the North Caucasus, the snake appears on the surface after hibernation in late March - early April, in the south of Ukraine - in mid-April and in Transcaucasia at the end of February.

The yellow-bellied snake is a diurnal non-venomous snake that bask in the sun, partially shaded by some shrubbery, and hides in anticipation of lizards. In spring and autumn, the snake is active during the day, and in summer, during the hottest part of the day, it rests, and is active in the morning and evening. This snake is the fastest in our fauna, gliding at high speed so that it can hardly be seen. The speed of movement allows the yellow belly to capture even very fast prey.

Interesting fact: The hallmark of bad behavior of the yellow-bellied snake is extraordinary aggression. Among the snakes of our fauna, these snakes (especially males) are the most aggressive and harmful. He does not try to hide when a person approaches, as other snakes do, but curls up in rings, as poisonous vipers do, and throws 1.4-2 m, trying to hit the face.

In forested areas with trees and shrubs, they quickly rise up until they disappear into the foliage at a high altitude (up to 5-7 m). The same ease manifests itself when moving among rocks and crevices. Although the yellow-bellied snake is a non-venomous snake, the bite of an adult is painful, bleeding, and sometimes infected, but usually not dangerous to human health.

Social structure and reproduction

Photo: Little Yellow Belly

The yellow-bellied belly reaches sexual maturity 3-4 years after birth. At this time, the length of the snake is 65-70 cm. Sexual dimorphism in this species is obvious: adult males are larger than females, their heads are much larger. During mating games, snakes meet in pairs. In more northern areas of the range, mating occurs at the end of May, and in southern areas, for example, in the Crimea, from mid-April to mid-May.

Fun fact: The snake's genitals are not on the outside of the body at the base of the tail, as they hide in a pocket at the base of the tail, called the cloaca, which also contains their liquid and solid waste system. The male genitalia, the hemipenes, are made up of two connected penises, each of which is connected to one testicle, giving it a bifurcated appearance.

The male of the Yellow-bellied Snake makes a powerful capture of the female's neck with his jaws and immobilizes her, wrapping his tail around her, and then copulation takes place. During mating, the yellow-bellied snake loses its usual vigilance. Once the snakes have finished intercourse, they disperse.

After 4-6 weeks, the female begins to lay eggs in the place chosen the day before. Clutch consists of 5-12 (maximum 20) eggs with an average size of 22 x 45 mm. Eggs are laid in hidden places: in natural cavities in the soil, sometimes in the trunks or cracks of tree trunks. Small yellow bellies hatch in the first half of September and reach 22-23 cm (without tail) when hatching. There have been reports of the species breeding in captivity. Life expectancy of the yellow belly is 8-10 years.

Natural enemies of the yellowbelly snake

Photo: Snake yellow-bellied in Russia

As shelters, the reptile uses cracks in the soil, rodent holes, pits in heaps of stones, rocky formations in the steppe valleys, bushes, pits near tree roots and ditches. When faced with an enemy or when it approaches, the yellow-bellied snake does not try to hide, fleeing, on the contrary, takes a threatening pose, twisting into rings and raising the front part of the body, like poisonous snakes, violently clapping its open mouth, rushing furiously at the enemy with long jumps and trying to strike enemy.

Large specimens of snakes can jump at a distance of 1.5-2 m. This intimidating behavior is intended to scare off a potential enemy, creates a respite for the snake to escape. The aggressive behavior of the yellow belly can even scare a large animal, even a horse. If the yellow-bellied snake is caught, it is very aggressive and makes barking sounds, trying to bite the face or hand of the attacker.

It happens that yellow-bellied snakes fall prey to large birds, martens, foxes. They also die under the wheels of a car: a car is not a horse, it cannot be frightened with loud hiss and threatening jumps.

Parasites of this snake bring harm to the yellow belly:

  • gamasid mites,
  • scrapers,
  • leaf fish,
  • nematodes,
  • trematodes,
  • cestodes.

Yellow-bellied snakes are rarely kept in terrariums due to their aggressive behavior.

Population and status of the species

Photo: Yellow-bellied snake

Deterioration, destruction and fragmentation of habitats, expansion of agricultural and rangelands, deforestation, tourism and urbanization, the use of pesticides and agricultural fertilizers, direct destruction by local residents, illegal collection and traffic are the main reasons for the decline in the number of the Yellowbelly snake.

The malevolent nature of the yellow belly causes excessive dislike in humans. This adds to the public lifestyle and large size and leads to the frequent destruction of the snake. Like other inhabitants of plains and open landscapes, the species suffers from various forms of economic activity. Therefore, the number of the yellow-bellied snake is rapidly falling, but the snake is not threatened with extinction in the near future.

Interesting fact: Climate warming is one of the most important threats to biodiversity. Organisms such as amphibians and reptiles are particularly vulnerable because climatic conditions have a direct impact on them.

Data on the conservation status of the yellow-bellied snake are virtually non-existent in many regions. Although it is known to be common in the Dobruja region, it is rare and threatened in other areas.Snakes killed on the road are a "common sight" for local residents. Traffic-related deaths can be the cause of population decline. Habitat loss is causing the species to decline in Europe. In Ukraine, the yellow-bellied snake lives in regional landscape parks and customers (in many habitats it is considered a common species).

Yellowbelly snake guard

Photo: Snake yellow-bellied from the Red Book

In the IUCN's Worldwide Red List of Conservation Status of European Reptiles, the yellow-bellied snake is listed as a non-endangered LC species - that is, causing the least concern. But it is still difficult to assess the population on a global scale and to accurately determine the classification of a species for endangered species. This yellow-bellied snake was included in the Appendix of the Red Book of Russia and Krasnodar Territory (2002).

In the Romanian Red Data Book, this species is considered Vulnerable (VU). Dolichophis caspius is also included in the Red Data Book of Ukraine as a vulnerable species (VU), in the Red Data Book of the Republic of Moldova and Kazakhstan. In Romania, the yellow-bellied snake is also protected by Law No. 13 of 1993. The species is protected by the Berne Convention (Appendix II), with European Directive 92/43 / EEC of the European Community (Appendix IV).

Interesting fact: Yellowbelly is also protected by a special government decree on the regime of protected natural landscapes, the preservation of natural habitats, wild flora and fauna, approved with further changes and additions, being considered a vulnerable species that requires protection.

Low-lying areas such as steppes, forest-steppes and forests, which are the preferred habitats of the Caspian yellowbelly snakesare particularly fragile and prone to land-use changes due to their value as agricultural and grazing fields. In addition, these areas are extremely sensitive to minor fluctuations in humidity and temperature, that is, to the effects of climate change. In developing countries, conservation measures are being implemented at a slower pace and may not be a priority.

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