Thursday, March 20, 2008

dendrelaphis punctulata

The common tree snake Dendrelaphis punctulata (also called green tree snake and Australian tree snake) is common in Australia's Kimberley region (Western Australia) to Cape York and Torres Strait (Queensland), extending down the east coast into New South Wales, and north into Papua New Guinea.

This one was climbing up the tree next to our verandah. It's amazing how they can manage to hang on to a vertical tree trunk and just slowly slither their way upwards.

They are thin, agile, and usually about 1.2 metres long, although some grow to 2 metres. The tail tapers to a long point. Colours vary greatly, and they may be olive green, brownish, black, blue or grey. The underbelly and throat are yellow, sometimes cream. They have larger eyes than most snakes, and are non-venomous. Their bite does not generally cause injury, because their teeth are small and they have no fangs.

Common tree snakes live in a wide variety of habitats, including bushland, well vegetated banks of rivers, creeks and streams, rainforest edges, eucalypt forests, heathland, and areas with trees, long grass, and lush vegetation, especially near water. They are active during the day, and rest at night in hollow trees, logs, foliage, or rock crevices.

Frogs, water skinks, and small reptiles and their eggs form a large part of their diet, but they will also eat small fish, mammals, geckos, and turtle hatchlings.

It lays 5 to 12 elongated eggs per clutch. The young snakes shed their skin about every 6 to 8 weeks to accommodate growth, and adults shed their skin every year or two. All shed their skin if they are injured. When new skin forms, the snake secretes a milky fluid between the old and new layers of skin. After about two weeks, the snake rubs its snout against a branch or something rough, and the old skin peels back and turns inside out.

Although common tree snakes are essentially harmless to humans, they will defend themselves by producing a horrible odour, and may bite. Sometimes when approached, the snake inflates its body and neck to make itself seem larger, a tactic sometimes used to scare prey.

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