There are two species of kukri snakes in Taiwan; the endemic Oligodon formosanus
, and O. ornatus
, whose distribution range includes parts of Mainland China. Here on the island, O. ornatus
is as rare as O. formosanus
is abundant, and it's categorized as endangered. While its dorsal area might not be much to write home about, its underside is probably among the prettiest snake bellies on the planet. This is only the second time I've found a wild O. ornatus
, and the first time I've had the chance to photograph it. I'm a macro enthusiast, so I take most small snakes home to take their pictures with proper gear (macro slider etc.) I know the white dinner plate leaves much room for improvement, and I promise I'll research ways of shooting stuff in more natural-looking surroundings in the future (such as Bill Love's little Natural Photo Stage).
In the West, few people keep or even know about kukri snakes, so here's a bit of info from http://www.snakesoftaiwan.com
"This cathemeral (diurnal or nocturnal), oviparous snake inhabits mountainous regions or plantations. It preys mainly on reptile eggs; the large, laterally flattened posterior teeth in the upper jaw and the large rostral shield are adapted to cut open and thrust into the eggs.
Kukri snakes derive their name from the above-mentioned blade-like teeth that resemble the famous kukri dagger of Nepal's Gurkha soldiers. In defense, these teeth are used in a slashing manner which can cause gaping wounds that may bleed profusely - probably an effect of the snake's saliva which is rumored to possess anticoagulant qualities.
" [I can attest to this - getting bitten even by the tiny babies (we keep two O. formosanus at home) can be quite a gory affair.]Snakes that specialize on the eggs of birds usually swallow eggs whole then crush them. Oligodon instead uses enlarged, blade-like rear maxillary teeth to make repeated slashes in the leathery egg shell, inserts its head, and swallows the yolk. The mechanics of cutting involve cycles of extreme displacement of the maxillary bone, whose blade-like teeth are swung in arcs to make ever deeper slashes in the shell until a slit is formed. The cycles during cutting involve protraction, engagement, and retraction of the palatomaxillary arch of one side while the contralateral jaws maintain a continuous hold on the egg surface
PS: It's always a bit of a chore to coil a snake, lay it on its back, and then keep it there for ventral photographs, but this one was a particularly uncooperative specimen, hence the dearth of pictures of the most interesting part. Here's a much better picture
than my meager efforts produced.