Common/Rhombic Egg-eater Dasypeltis scabra

Common/Rhombic Egg-eater Dasypeltis scabra

Full Description

Colloquial/Common Names: Gewone Eiervreter (Afrikaans).

Taxonomy: Class: Reptilia; Order: Squamata; Suborder: Serpentes (Ophidia); Infraorder: Caenophidia; Family: Colubridae.

Identification: Various shades of brown and grey with a series of black, rhombic markings down the back and flanks. A dark ‘V’ marking occurs on the neck. The head is rounded with bulging eyes. The belly is pearly white. Occasional plain brown egg-eaters occur which look very similar to the Southern Brown Egg-eater.

Size: Adults average 600-900mm, but may sometimes exceed 1m.

Distribution: Widely distributed across South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland.

Habitat: Found in all Biomes but especially Savanna, Grassland and Fynbos where it shelters under rocks, fallen logs, tree hollows and crevices and deserted termite mounds.

Activity & Behaviour: Nocturnal, terrestrial and arboreal. All egg-eaters are excellent climbers and will climb into trees and shrubs in search of bird nests. Like the Southern Brown and East African egg-eaters, they are completely harmless with tiny teeth embedded in the gums. They put on a defensive display by sinuously rubbing their body scales together making a rasping sound and lunging out at the aggressor.

Diet & Feeding: Bird eggs, usually freshly laid and undeveloped. Specialised vertebral projections in the neck grind into the shell, collapsing the egg and releasing its fluid contents. The eggshell is regurgitated.

Reproduction: Oviparous, females lay 6-25 eggs which hatch after 80-90 days incubation.

Conservation Status: Least Concern.

References and Recommended Further Reading:

  • Alexander, G. & Marais, J. 2007. A Guide to the Reptiles of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers.
  • Bates, M. F., Branch, W. R., Bauer, A. M., Burger, M., Marais, J., Alexander, G. J., & de Villiers, M. S. (eds). 2014. Atlas and Red List of the Reptiles of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Suricata 1. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.
  • Branch, W. R. 1998. Field Guide to Snakes and other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers.
  • Broadley, D. G. 1990. FitzSimons’ Snakes of Southern Africa. Jonathan Ball and Ad. Donker Publishers.