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Psammophis crucifer (DAUDIN, 1803)

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Higher TaxaPsammophiidae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Cross-marked Grass Snake, Montane Grass Snake
G: Quergebänderte Sandrennnatter 
SynonymColuber crucifer DAUDIN 1803: 189
Psammophis crucifer — DUMÉRIL & BIBRON 1854: 892
Psammophis crucifer — SYMONDS 1887: 487
Psammophis crucifer — LOVERIDGE 1936: 39
Psammophis crucifer — FITZSIMONS & BRAIN 1958
Psammophis crucifer — BOYCOTT 1992
Psammophis crucifer — BROADLEY 2002
Taphrometopon crucifer — WALLACH et al. 2014: 694
Psammophis crucifer — BATES et al. 2014: 375 
DistributionRepublic of South Africa, E Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Mozambique (Chimanimani Mountains)

Type locality: "Indes orientales."  
TypesHolotype: unlocated, a 236 mm specimen. 
DiagnosisDescription. (80 specimens examined) Nostril pierced between 2 nasals; preocular 1, widely separated from frontal; postoculars 2 (very rarely 3); temporals basically 2+2+3, but with frequent fusions; supralabials 8 (rarely 7 or 9), the fourth & fifth (rarely third & fourth or fifth & sixth) entering orbit; infralabials 9 (rarely 10), the first 4 (rarely ) in contact with anterior sublinguals; dorsal scales in 1-1-13 rows; ventrals 134-16; cloacal shield divided; subcaudals 68-91. TM 22369, an aberrant female from the Nyanga highlands, Zimbabwe, has only 117 ventrals and 47 subcaudals. Head grey, with a dark red-brown black-edged stripe extending from the snout, dividing on the frontal and again on the parietals, in each case enclosing a grey centre, continuing on the body as a black-bordered three scale wide dorsal stripe, this is separated by a thin white line from a grey dorsolateral stripe on scale rows 4, and 6. A dark grey-brown lateral stripe covers scale rows 2 and 3 and the upper half of the outer row, the lower half being white. Pre- and post-oculars white, supralabials, chin and throat white, blotched or speckled with black. Venter orange with a broken black lateral line. South African specimens usually have one or two dark crossbars intersecting the vertebral stripe on the nape to form the “cross” from which the species derives its name, these crossbars are missing in specimens from Zimbabwe and KwaZulu-Natal. Some South African specimens are uniform grey above and pinkish white below [from BROADLEY 2002]. 
CommentCharacterized by a cross-shaped marking on the head. Seldom exceeds 2 feet in length; egg-laying; diet mainly of small lizards; apparently preyed upon by other snakes and birds of prey.

Habitat: Fynbos and grassland from sea level to montane grassland at 2300 m in South Africa, montane grassland in Zimbabwe. 
  • BATES, M. F. & D. BOSHOFF. 2018. Psammophis crucifer (Daudin, 1803). Death-feigning. African Herp News (67): 19 - get paper here
  • Bates, M.F.; Branch, W.R., Bauer, A.M.; Burger, M., Marais, J.; Alexander, G.J. & de Villliers, 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, 512 pp.
  • BOYCOTT, R. C. 2018. Psammophis crucifer (Daudin, 1803) Cross-marked Grass Snake - EFFECT OF DROUGHT ON HATCHING SUCCESS. African Herp News (67): 12 - get paper here
  • Boycott, R.C. 1992. An Annotated Checklist of the Amphibians and Reptiles of Swaziland. The Conservation Trust of Swaziland - get paper here
  • Branch, W.R. 1992. Life History Notes - Psammophis crucifer. J. Herp. Assoc. Africa (41): 43-43 - get paper here
  • Branch, William R. 1993. A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Struik Publishers, 144 S.
  • Broadley, D. & Blaylock 2013. The Snakes of Zimbabwe and Botswana. Chimaira, Frankfurt, 387 pp. [book review in Sauria 35 (2): 59 and Copeia 2014: 388] - get paper here
  • Broadley, D.G. 1959. The herpetology of Southern Rhodesia. Part I--the snakes. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. Harvard 120 (1): 1-100 [reprint 1972] - get paper here
  • Broadley, D.G. 1962. On some reptile collections from the North-Western and North-Eastern Districts of Southern Rhodesia 1958-1961, with descriptions of four new lizards. Occ. Pap. Nat. Mus. South. Rhodesia 26 (B): 787-843
  • Broadley, D.G. 1977. A review of the genus Psammophis in southern Africa (Serpentes: Colubridae). Arnoldia 8 (12): 1-29
  • Broadley, D.G. 2002. A review of the species of Psammophis Boie found south of Latitude 12° S (Serpentes: Psammophiinae). African Journal of Herpetology 51 (2): 83-119 - get paper here
  • Conradie, Werner; Brain Reeves, Sandile Mdoko, Lwandiso Pamla, Oyama Gxabhu 2020. Herpetological survey of the Ongeluksnek (Malekgalonyane) Nature Reserve on the foothills of the Drakensberg, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. Herpetology Notes 13: 717-730 - get paper here
  • Conradie, Werner; Brian Reeves , Neil Brown, & Jan A. Venter 2016. Herpetofauna of the Oviston, Commando Drift and Tsolwana nature reserves in the arid interior of the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. Indago 32: 81-98 - get paper here
  • Daudin, F. M. 1803. Histoire Naturelle, Générale et Particulière des Reptiles. vol. 7. Paris: Dufart, 436 pp. [publication date fide Harper 1940] - get paper here
  • Duméril, A. M. C., Bibron, G. & DUMÉRIL, A. H. A., 1854. Erpétologie générale ou histoire naturelle complète des reptiles. Tome septième. Deuxième partie, comprenant l'histoire des serpents venimeux. Paris, Librairie Encyclopédique de Roret: i-xii + 781-1536 - get paper here
  • FitzSimons, V.F.M. 1974. A field guide to the snakes of Southern Africa. 2nd edition. COLLINS, 221 pp. [first ed. 1970]
  • Fitzsimons, V.F.M.; Brain, C.K. 1958. A Short account of the Reptiles of the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park. Koedoe, 1(1): 99-104 - get paper here
  • Flemming, A.F. 1994. Reproductive cycles of the snakes Psammophis crucifer, P. leightoni trinasalis and P. notostictus in the Orange Free State, South Africa. J. Herp. Assoc. Africa (43): 19-27 - get paper here
  • Fraser M. 2023. Reptiles and Amphibians of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, Western Cape, South Africa. Biodiversity Observations 13: 162–185. 14 March 2023 - get paper here
  • Haagner, G. V. 1988. Life History Note: Psammophis crucifer: Reproduction. J. Herp. Assoc. Africa (35): 37-37 - get paper here
  • Haagner, G.V.; Branch, W.R. 1993. Life History Notes - Psammophis crucifer. J. Herp. Assoc. Africa (42): 39-39 - get paper here
  • Kirchhof, S., M. Krämer, J. Linden & K. Richter 2010. The reptile species assemblage of the Soutpansberg (Limpopo Province, South Africa) and its characteristics. Salamandra 46 (3): 147-166 - get paper here
  • Loveridge, A. 1936. African reptiles and amphibians in the Field Museum of Natural History. Zool. Ser. Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Chicago, 22 (1): 1-122 - get paper here
  • Mouton, P. le Fras N. & Wyk, Johannes H. van 1993. Reptile fauna of the Katse Dam catchment area and a biogeographical assessment of species composition in the Lesotho Highlands. Koedoe (Pretoria), 36 (1): 67-78. - get paper here
  • Reeves, B., Brooke, C. F., Venter, J. A., & Conradie, W. 2022. The Reptiles and Amphibians of the Mpofu-Fort Fordyce Nature Reserve Complex in the Winterberg Mountains, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. African Journal of Wildlife Research, 52(1) - get paper here
  • Symonds, E. 1887. Notes on some species of South-African snakes. Proc. Zool. Soc. London 1887: 486-489 - get paper here
  • Wallach, Van; Kenneth L. Williams , Jeff Boundy 2014. Snakes of the World: A Catalogue of Living and Extinct Species. [type catalogue] Taylor and Francis, CRC Press, 1237 pp.
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