Northern Shovel-nosed Snake

Photographed after disturbance [4]

One of eight northern shovel-nosed snakes (Brachyurophis roperi) from the Kimberley, in situ. Brachyurophis is a curious genus of Australian elapids, having a distinct wedge-shaped rostrum for piercing into the substrate like a shovel. Some species feed almost exclusively on reptile eggs, slicing the shell with specialized rear teeth, but others will take small lizards such as skinks and geckos. It was fascinating to feel the rigidity and strength of the shovel nose as the snake repeatedly wedged its rostrum into my hand, never attempting to bite. Many Brachyurophis species have elaborate striped patterns (e.g. the Australian coral snake, B. australis), but some are patternless. Although there was considerable variability in conspicuousness of the banding in northern shovel-nosed snakes, they appear to have a somewhat similar color pattern to the sympatric Kimberley death adder (Acanthophis lancasteri). Several even flattened the body defensivelyAll of the individuals I encountered had emerged at night along the boundary between sandstone rock layers and the dense overlooking spinifex.

Photographed after slight disturbance [2]
Photographed after pursuit [3]

No luck with spiny-tailed monitors (Varanus acanthurus) though there were two deceased ones along with a large freshie (Crocodylus johnsoni), not to mention dozens of turtles and fish, probably knocked around and drowned during a storm surge.


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