Seychelles wolf snake (Lycognathophis seychellensis)

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderSquamata
FamilyColubridae
GenusLycognathophis (1)
SizeLength: up to 1.2 m (2)

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The Seychelles wolf snake is a slender and graceful reptile (2), named after the islands it inhabits and its long, backwards curved teeth, reminiscent of those of that well-known howling canine (3). Each Seychelles wolf snake may be one of two distinct colour ‘phases’; a yellow phase or a dark phase. Yellow individuals have a yellowish-brown back, patterned with faint dark spots, while the underside is bright yellow. Dark phase individuals may either be dark or light grey with black or dark spots on the back, and the underside is white, with an abundant covering of small dark spots (2). The Seychelles wolf snake has a small head with a narrow, pointed muzzle and conspicuous, relatively large, coppery-gold eyes (2).

The Seychelles wolf snake is found only in the Seychelles, where it occurs on the islands of Mahé, Silhouette, Praslin, Aride, La Digue and Frégate (1).

This reptile is most commonly found in forest, particularly amongst native vegetation (1), from sea level up to the islands’ highest points (2), although it appears to be most common at intermediate elevations (2). Severely degraded habitat or abandoned plantations appear to be unsuitable habitat for the Seychelles wolf snake (1).

The Seychelles wolf snake is an active snake that can be found moving through the forest, often on low bushes and trees, during the daylight hours (2). Young Seychelles wolf snakes feed primarily on invertebrates (2) while adults prey on geckos and skinks (1), and may also occasionally feed on small birds (2). It is thought that the Seychelles kestrel (Falco araea), the only day-flying raptor in the central Seychelles (4), may be a natural predator of this slender snake (2).

It is thought that this is an oviparous snake, with females laying two to nine eggs at a time. Evidence suggests that this species may have a very long breeding season, or may breed at any time throughout the year (2).

Considered to be at risk from extinction, the Seychelles wolf snake is being impacted by both invasive species and habitat degradation (1). The Seychelles wolf snake is preyed on by the tenrec (Tenrec ecaudatus), an opportunistic feeder that was introduced to the islands of Mahé and Praslin, probably as a source of food (1) (2), while another introduced species, Cinnamomum verum, is impacting the snake’s habitat (1). Introduced to the islands in 1772, and subsequently spreading so rapidly that by the end of the 19th century extensive forests of this plant existed (5), this cinnamon plant continues to invade and degrade native forests (1). The fairly restricted distribution of this species makes it particularly susceptible to the impacts of any threats it faces (1).

The Seychelles wolf snake occurs in a number of protected areas throughout its range, including Morne Seychellois and Praslin National Parks, and Aride Special Reserve (1). However, a significant population on Silhouette Island does not occur in any protected area, and it has therefore been recommended that a national park or reserve should be established in order to protect this population (1).

For further information on conservation in the Seychelles 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: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2008)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Stoddart, D.R. (1984) Biogeography and Ecology of the Seychelles Islands. Junk, The Hague.
  3. Branch, B. and Branch, W.R. (2005) Photographic Guide to Snakes and Reptiles of East Africa: Other Reptiles and Amphibians of East Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  4. Nature Seychelles (September, 2007)
    http://www.natureseychelles.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=56&Itemid=83
  5. Ministry of Environment Seychelles (September, 2008)
    http://www.env.gov.sc/html/alien_invasive_species__plants.html