Friday 17 May
Awl-headed snake (Lytorhynchus diadema)
Awl-headed snake fact file
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Awl-headed snake description
A little-known, burrow-dwelling reptile, the most distinctive feature of the awl-headed snake is its shovel-shaped, projecting snout which is used as an adaptation for digging into sand while seeking out prey (2) (3). With undulations of the elongated, cylindrical body and medium-sized tail, the head, with sunken mouth and enlarged scales, is thrust into the ground and the sand is pushed away. The awl-headed snake varies in colour from pale yellow to yellow-brown or reddish, although a series of dark rectangular blotches on the upperside and smaller spots on the sides of the body are largely retained. There is a chocolate-brown circle or ring on each side of the head behind the eyes, which are usually joined by a brown bar, and a dark stripe runs from each eye to the corner of the mouth. The underside of the body is a uniform white or cream (2).
- Also known as
- crowned leafnose snake, diademed sand snake.
- Catachlaena diadema, Heterodon diadema.
- Length: up to 45 cm (2)
The International Reptile Conservation Fund:
The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi:
- Active at dusk and/or dawn.
- Active at night.
Species 2000 and ITIS Catalogue of Life (September, 2010)
- Schleich, H.H., Kästle, W. and Kabisch, K. (1996) Amphibians and Reptiles of North Africa: Biology, Systematics, Field Guide. Koeltz Scientific Books, Koenigstein, Germany.
- Hellyer, P. and Aspinall, S. (2005) The Emirates: A Natural History. Trident Press Limited, London.
The Reptile Database (September, 2010)
- Firouz, E. (2005) The Complete Fauna of Iran. I. B. Tauris Publishers, London.
- Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
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Awl-headed snake biology
Very little is known about the biology of this snake, but it is thought to be largely nocturnal or crepuscular during the summer, residing in burrows during the day (2) (5). In the colder months of spring and autumn, it is thought to become more active during the day. It mainly eats small lizards that have burrowed into loose sand, but young rodents and large insects may also be consumed. Like most other colubrid snakes, those belonging to the Colubridae family, it is probably an egg-laying species (6). It is known to live for up to six years in captivity (2).Top
Awl-headed snake range
The awl-headed snake has a large range across North Africa and the Middle East, stretching from Mauritania in the west to the United Arab Emirates, Iraq and south-west Iran in the east (4).Top
Awl-headed snake habitat
The awl-headed snake inhabits sand or stony areas around the margins of deserts, in coastal sand dunes, and on high grassy plateaus up to altitudes of around 2,000 metres (2).Top
Awl-headed snake status
This species has yet to be classified by the IUCN.Top
Awl-headed snake threats
It is not known if there are any major threats to awl-headed snake.Top
Awl-headed snake conservation
The awl-headed snake has not been the target of any known conservation measures.Top
Find out more
To find out more about the conservation of reptiles, see:
For further information on conservation in the United Arab Emirates, see:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
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This species is featured in Jewels of the UAE, which showcases biodiversity found in the United Arab Emirates in association with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi.
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