Mississippi green watersnake (Nerodia cyclopion )

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Mississippi green watersnake
IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern LEAST
CONCERN

Top facts

  • The Mississippi green watersnake has a unique scale arrangement around its eyes, which make it easily identifiable.
  • The Mississippi green watersnake gains its scientific name from the Greek words kycklos, meaning ‘circle’, ops, meaning ‘eye’ and ion, meaning ‘to come or go’, which refer to the scales around its eyes.
  • The juvenile Mississippi green watersnake is much more distinctly patterned than the adult.
  • The biological tendencies of the Mississippi green watersnake are highly variable and depend on the area the population lives in.
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Mississippi green watersnake fact file

Mississippi green watersnake description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderSquamata
FamilyNatricidae
GenusNerodia (1)

The Mississippi green watersnake (Nerodia cyclopion) gains its scientific name from the Greek words kycklos, meaning ‘circle’, ops, meaning ‘eye’ and ion, meaning ‘to come or go’, which refer to the unique scales surrounding the eyes (4).

A heavy-bodied aquatic snake (4) (5), the Mississippi green watersnake has an olive-green to olive-brown upperside, which is patterned with multiple narrow black bars (3) and may be dull or shiny (4). The black bars are also found along the side of the body, occurring at alternate points to those on the upper surface. The underside is yellow-white towards the head, gradually turning grey or brown towards the tail (3). There are numerous yellow or cream, half-moon shaped markings along most of the lower surface (2) (3) (4) (5).  

The female Mississippi green watersnake is larger than the male, both in length and width (4) (5), and the juvenile is usually more distinctly patterned than the adult (3) (4).

Also known as
Mississippi green water snake.
Size
Length: 76 - 114 cm (2)
Newborn length: 22.9 - 26.7 cm (3)
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Mississippi green watersnake biology

A rather quick-tempered species (3), the Mississippi green watersnake is known to strike out and bite when it is provoked, and may exude a potent musk (3) (4).

It is thought that the Mississippi green watersnake avoids the high temperatures throughout the summer by becoming mostly nocturnal and spending a large proportion of its time in its aquatic habitat (3). Diurnal activity has also been recorded throughout the summer in other parts of this species’ range (4) (5).

The diet of the Mississippi green watersnake consists mostly of fish (3) (4), especially mosquitofish (Gambusia species) and sailfin mollies (Poecilia latipinna) (3). This species may also take amphibians and invertebrates, such as crayfish (4). While hunting, it swims underwater with its mouth open, turning its head from side to side (3) (4).

There is very limited information available on the reproductive biology of the Mississippi green watersnake, although in the southern coastal part of its range, mating is thought to occur in early to mid-April. Litters of between 9 and 34 young usually appear between mid-July and mid-September (3).

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Mississippi green watersnake range

The Mississippi green watersnake is endemic to the southern United States (1), where its range stretches from western Florida in the east to southern Alabama in the west. It is found from south-eastern Texas to south-eastern Missouri and southern Tennessee, where it reaches the northern limit of its range (1) (2) (4).

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Mississippi green watersnake habitat

An inhabitant of a variety of freshwater habitats (4), the Mississippi green watersnake is generally found in areas with slow-moving water (2), such as marshes, swamps, ditches, canals, ponds and flooded fields (1) (3). It is very rarely found far from water, although it is known to cross roads to move from one area to another (3), especially during or after rain (4). It may also occasionally enter brackish habitats (1) (4).

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Mississippi green watersnake status

The Mississippi green watersnake is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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Mississippi green watersnake threats

The Mississippi green watersnake is not currently believed to be threatened, although many mortalities occur during heavy rains, when individuals are killed by traffic while moving across roads to other areas (4). The wild population is also threatened by habitat loss, which has occurred due to the drainage of aquatic habitats throughout its range (1).

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Mississippi green watersnake conservation

The Mississippi green watersnake is listed as endangered in Missouri (4). Although there are not known to be any conservation measures in place specifically for this species, its range includes many protected areas (1).

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Find out more

Find out more about reptile conservation:

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Authentication

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:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Brackish
Slightly salty water, usually a mixture of salt and freshwater, such as that found in estuaries.
Diurnal
Active during the day.
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Invertebrates
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
Nocturnal
Active at night.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2014)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Conant, R. and Collins, J.T. (1998) Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York.
  3. Werler, J.E. and Dixon, J.R. (2000) Texas Snakes: Identification, Distribution, and Natural History. Texas University Press, Austin, Texas.
  4. Gibbons, J.W. and Dorcas, M.E. (2004) North American Watersnakes: A Natural History. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma.
  5. Trauth, S.E., Robison, H.W. and Plummer, M.V. (2004) The Amphibians and Reptiles of Arkansas. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, Arkansas.
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Image credit

Mississippi green watersnake  
Mississippi green watersnake

© Zig Leszczynski / Animals Animals

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