Philothamnus Possible Mating Congregation

South African snakes commonly known as non-venomous, including the Natal rock python (Python natalensis).

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Philothamnus Possible Mating Congregation

Postby Mehelya » Wed Sep 11, 2013 10:29 am

Hi all,

Last night I got a call from a farmer's wife in the area, and they have a bit of a snake problem. It was described to me that there were a bunch of snakes, in an aloe. They had been seen in the same aloe for the last two days, and they were "in a big ball" climbing all over each other.

My first thought was Dispholidus typus, based on their behaviour etc, but when the two photos below were sent to me, I immediately recanted, and it is definitely a Philothamnus species of some sort. I am leaning towards Philothamnus natalensis, but this "balling" behaviour is new to me with any of the Philo's...

Please excuse the photos. They were taken by the farmer/farmer's wife, and they are reluctant to go too close to them, although they do not want them killed or harmed in any way. The aloe in question is about 3.5m from the farm house.

This is rather strange behaviour for any of the Philothamnus, as far as I know... Any ideas or input is greatly welcomed.

Photo time :

In the Aloe
Image

Basking in the afterglow
Image

More photos to follow, as soon as I get them, or can get out to take them. The farmer will call me as soon as he sees them again, and I will get my butt and camera out there asap.

Enjoy!
Rian
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Yes, it probably will bite you if you carry on that way...
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Re: Help to identify (Philothamnus spp)

Postby Bushviper » Wed Sep 11, 2013 10:35 am

How much for the aloe and all those snakes. I would kill to have that in my garden.

I am assuming its a female with a whole bunch of males around her. I do not know of this being recorded anywhere. This needs to go into the virtual museum as well.
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Re: Help to identify (Philothamnus spp)

Postby Mehelya » Wed Sep 11, 2013 10:40 am

BV, I would also love this in my garden! :lol:

I will upload these to the museum asap. I am waiting for more photos, and the gps co-ords, then I will upload all here, and on the VM.

I also thought breeding ball, but I've only ever noted it in Boomslangs and American Garters... If they appear today, I will go out, and take photos, and videos.
Rian
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Yes, it probably will bite you if you carry on that way...
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Re: Help to identify (Philothamnus spp)

Postby Mitton » Wed Sep 11, 2013 11:00 am

That is AWESOME!!!
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Re: Help to identify (Philothamnus spp)

Postby rolandslf » Wed Sep 11, 2013 11:27 am

WOW, unbelievable. We learn everyday. I don't know of this behaviour in this species being recorded or witnessed anywhere.
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Re: Help to identify (Philothamnus spp)

Postby Mehelya » Wed Sep 11, 2013 11:51 am

Thanks guys. I unfortunately can't take any credit for "finding this"... That goes completely to the farmer and his wife, and kudos to them for not just whipping out the shotgun, and blasting away! :smt004

Eugene, I was awestruck when I got these two photos! Completely side-swiped me! :o

Roland, I think we need to re-evaluate a lot of what we know about snake behaviour, and keep a really, really open mind about the habits of our reptiles... Arboreal, rodent-eating Causus rhombeatus, breeding-ball Philothamnus... What the heck is next on my find list?! Fully aquatic Boomslangs?! :lol:

Maybe I should've had the heading as "Philothamnus in breeding ball"! :lol:

Thanks chaps, these two photos have really made my week! Enjoy, and keep the comments coming! I'll upload more as soon as I manage to get.
Rian
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Re: Philothamnus Possible Mating Congregation

Postby Westley Price » Thu Sep 12, 2013 6:07 pm

Epic observation! Probably one of the coolest local observations we have had in a while.
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Re: Philothamnus Possible Mating Congregation

Postby Serpent » Fri Sep 13, 2013 5:54 pm

Never seen anything like that in my entire life! What a spectacle!
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Re: Philothamnus Possible Mating Congregation

Postby kfc223 » Sat Sep 14, 2013 8:56 am

Now that's quite the sighting!
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Re: Philothamnus Possible Mating Congregation

Postby LanceJeffery » Mon Sep 16, 2013 8:16 am

I was told a story the other day about a bunch of "green snakes" cavorting in his sink. Didn't pay much attention to the story as most people tend to over exaggerate anything regarding snakes however these pictures definitely make his story sound a lot more credible.
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Re: Philothamnus Possible Mating Congregation

Postby Mehelya » Mon Sep 16, 2013 1:02 pm

Well, as promised, I pestered the farmer and his wife for more photos, and they sent me a few. It seems that these Philos live around the house, and have been doing so for quite a while. Some have made their residence in the braai place walls, and around the house.

They have not called me to tell me that they are back yet, so, sadly it looks as if these photos are all I am going to get for now, and to share with you all. They will call me as soon as something happens again. I am probably going out that way tomorrow, weather permitting.

Without further ado, here are all the photos, in what is hopefully a form of order. I have not edited the photos in any way, except to crop and resize them to 800x600, so I could load them on here.


1. Coming out the hole in the braai area
Image

2. Coming out one at a time
Image

3. Profile shot of the snakes
Image

4. Close-up of the beastlies
Image

5. Movement in the Aloe
Image

6. Slowly Congregating
Image

7. Close-up of congregation
Image

8. Slowly getting to the top
Image

9. Getting those rays down to a "T"
Image

10. I count at least 6 in this ball. (Could be 7)
Image


Well, after looking at these photos, I am beginning to think that this is a group of Philothamnus that have hibernated together, and are just in a group, warming up in the sun. Whether mating actually took place, I would not know, but anything is plausible at this point as far as this sighting goes... Just find it weird to knot up like that, just to catch some rays...

Well, hope you all enjoy, and keep the comments coming!
Rian
If I wasn't me, then I'd probably be someone else...
Forceps. Not fingers...
Yes, it probably will bite you if you carry on that way...
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Re: Philothamnus Possible Mating Congregation

Postby Naneek » Sun Sep 29, 2013 10:48 am

Wow really interesting pics!
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