Western false smooth snake - Macroprotodon brevis ibericus - Culebra de Cogulla

Western false smooth snake – Macroprotodon brevis ibericus – Culebra de Cogulla

  • Scientific name: Macroprotodon brevis ibericus (Wade 1988). Recent genetic and morphological studies have concluded that it needed reclassification. Previously = Macroprotodon cucullatus, now = Macroprotodon brevis ibericus See similar species at bottom of page.
  • Spanish: Culebra de Cogulla Occidental.
  • English: False Smooth Snake.
  • French: Couleuvre à capuchon de l’Ouest.
  • German: Kapuzennatter.
  • Italian: Colubro dal cappuccio.
  • Portuguese: Cobra-de-capuz.
  • Distribution: South Iberia and Western Morocco (Melilla and Ceuta). In general, it lives in the southern half of the Iberian Peninsula absent is absent from the north.

Venomous – harmless to humans

Description

The Western False smooth snake is the smallest snake of all those found on the Iberian Peninsula, normally 30-35cm and not reaching more than 65cm. The head is distinct from the body and appears flattened. The most recognizable feature is a black line from the eye to the mouth and a big black band on the neck. The body is cylindrical and robust, of a grey colour with small dark markings along the back sometimes forming lines and its sides are speckled with small black ocelli. The scales along the back are completely smooth and shiny.

Western false smooth snake - Macroprotodon brevis ibericus - Culebra de Cogulla
Western false smooth snake – Macroprotodon brevis ibericus – Culebra de Cogulla

This species of snake is active throughout the year. Its activity is primarily crepuscular and nocturnal, during the daytime finding refuge under stones and in natural underground galleries or those it creates itself in many different types of habitats including woodland, scrubland and cultivated areas.

Their main food is lizards and geckos, though also includes Iberian Worm Lizards, young snakes, small rodents and insects. Leaving it’s lair rarely to hunt. it instead waits for prey to pass by close enough for capture.

The courtship extends from March to June, 31 to 52 days after copulation 2-6 eggs are laid in moist sunny areas under stones, logs or among leaf litter and hatching after 50-60 days. Females only breed every 2 years meaning it has a biennial reproduction frequency and a reduced clutch size relative to other snake species in Iberia.

Western false smooth snake - Macroprotodon brevis ibericus - Culebra de Cogulla
Western false smooth snake – Macroprotodon brevis ibericus – Culebra de Cogulla

This snake has venom glands connected to 2 back teeth (opistoglifa). It is harmless to larger animals since the teeth with which it injects venom are at the back of its very small mouth, it would be difficult for it to get a sufficient grip and the venom is of very low toxicity.

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) by the IUCN. Its probable decline is caused by extensive loss of habitat in much of its range due to intensive agriculture and human persecution. The recent proliferation of the wild boar (Sus scrofa) affects it negatively due to its foraging habits lifting and turning stones where the western false smooth snake makes its home.

Similar species

Macroprotodon cucullatus or mauritanicus, commonly known as the false smooth snake is found in Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Italy, Libya, Morocco, Palestinian Territories, and Tunisia. (Spain, Balearic islands).

Habits are identical to the Western false smooth snake but a key to differing between the two would be geographic location. Remember that Macroprotodon cucullatusis or mauritanicus is found only on the Balearic islands in Spain (Introduced species).

The western false smooth snake is restricted to the south (much temperate areas of Iberia).

The IUCN has listed the false smooth snake as being of “Least Concern”. This is because it has a wide distribution, a large population, seems to be tolerant of some habitat modification and its population is unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify it for listing in a more threatened category

The Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) which has no markings on either sides of the eyes and the dorsal scales are keeled, not smooth and shiny.


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