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RE: Sharptail ?'s

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Posted by: RichardFHoyer at Mon Dec 27 21:33:01 2004  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by RichardFHoyer ]  

We may be the only two individuals that maintain Contia although I would guess that now and then, a few others may have or are currently maintaining Sharp-tailed Snakes.

Concerning sexing, male and females can be determined with reasonable accuracy by two methods in both species. In the Forest Sharptail, the relative tail length of males ranges from about 19% to 21% whereas the same values for females runs from about 16.5% to 18.5%. I don't have the exact values in from of me but that is close. With a larger sample, there probably will be some overlap in these values between the sexes.

To obtain relative tail length, you need to place the snake on a meter stick and pin the tail down with two fingers just above the tip so the tip is at zero. With the other hand, grip the snake behind the head and stretch the specimen with gentle firmness to record where the nose of the snake reaches its maximum length. Then record the length of the tail, tip to vent, in the same manner. Divided the tail length by total length and multiply by 100 to get % relative tail length.

The second method is to count the caudal scales from vent to tip. You probably will need magnification. The caudals are divided in Contia so you only need to count one side. In the sample on which I published data, the range of counts for male Forest Sharptails ran from 49 - 57 whereas the range for females ran from 44 - 52. There also is sexual dimorphism in ventral counts but again there is some overlap between the sexes with females having a higher number of ventrals than males.

I have some prelimary evidence that both species may eat small snails. I would have thought that they ate snail and slug eggs but so far, that does not seem to be the case. One way to perhaps get your specimens to eat small worms is to place the worms with slugs to acquire some scent from the slugs. You should have some species of slender salamander in your area and the snake may take that species as well. If you have access to a gram balance, you can weigh your snake then enter food items and weigh the snake 24 - 48 hours later. I just did that today weighing the three Forest Sharptails and one Common Sharptail (from Monterey County) that I am maintaining. I then put 20 slender salamanders in the aquaria and will weigh all specimens in 48 hours.

I have all four specimens together in a 15 gal. acquaria. Substrate on one side of he aquaria is damp earth with damp moss on top of the earth. I then have three shallow bark hides on top of the moss. On the other half of the aquaria damp moss as the bottom substrate covered with three shallow pieces of bark which in turn is covered with a layer of dry moss which are covered with three shallow pieces of bark for hides. In this manner, the snakes have choices. I have a 60 watt light that about 18 - 20 inches above the bark hides on dry moss. I have left the lamp off for some time then turn it on but the slight heat source is governed by a timer so it is on for 8 hours and off for 16 hours at this time of year.

Both species will consume prey in the upper 40 degrees and above at this time of year. They can also digest their prey at such low temperatures with is similar to what occurs in a species of viper in Japan as I recall. Just like to boa, Contia are cool temperature tolerant but differ in that the boa does not take and digest prey at such low temperatures.

On our recent trip to Calif. for Christmas, on the 24th, I found 8 Common Sharptail in a vacant lot in Wheatland, Calif. with temperatures at about 51 - 52 degrees at around 4 - 4:25 PM. It had probably gotten up to 56 - 57 degrees earlier in the day.

Chris Feldman is currently pursuing his PhD degree at Utah State U. and very busy for the most part. He indicated that he would be able to crunch numbers on the data I supplied and review the draft sometime around the first of the year. It is not possible to determine when the manuscript will be ready to submit ot a journal and then be published.

Richard F. Hoyer


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