A little-known, burrow-dwelling reptile, the most distinctive feature of the awl-headed snake (Lytorhynchus diadema) 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).
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).
Although the awl-headed snake is not currently considered to be globally threatened, it may face a number of localised threats in parts of its range. For example. this species is collected for the pet trade in Egypt, and is also under threat from overgrazing and quarrying (1).
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