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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Here are some photos from the last couple of days of a few of the Asian rat snakes I keep.

Dione's Rat Snake (Elaphe dione)

These particular examples are North China locality Dione's rat snakes (Elaphe dione), since normally the more colourful Beijing and Xi'an animals I keep are the ones that get shown off. This was the first locality of Dione's rat snake I ever kept, though.

At the start of the year I lost my oldest specimen, a female at the grand old age of 25. My next oldest animal is this male which I think is at least 21. He has sired many clutches of baby Dione's rat snakes over the years.

Over the last two decades he has inhabited a 3L tub, a 5L tub, a Contico, an 84L tub, a 24" vivarium, a 36" vivarium and now this vivarium. Not bad considering he is only 30" long and by recent "minimum standards" guidelines he would be fine in an enclosure 50cm by 25cm (just slightly more floor space than a 9L RUB).

I am happy this sprightly old gentleman is living out his days in an enclosure nearly twice as long as he is, with access to UV to bask under, things to climb, substrate to burrow in and cycling daily and seasonal temperatures. I can honestly say the more space I give these animals, the more I enjoy them, and the more things I witness them do that I would never see if I had continued keeping them in a tub.







Also here are some pics of my other adult specimens from this locale. A pair I had off Crystal Palace Reptiles in 2002, one I bought from the (in)famous Christian Castille in 2010, and another pair I had earlier this year from Florence Butler, one of which is by far the largest Dione's rat snake I have ever seen at 147cm. A true giant for the species.

I will cycle those two into my breeding regimen next spring.

















 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
More dull brown (Dull green? Dull blue?) snakes from Francis.

Japanese Rat Snake (Elaphe climacophora)

My oldest pair of Japanese rat snakes, Kunashir Island locality. Known locally as Aoidaisho (Blue General).

People seem to associate me a lot with Dione's rat snakes but the truth is I have been keeping this species almost as long and have nearly as many of them as I do Dione's! I keep the grey and brown phases of this species but by far the most beautiful are the green and blue Kunsashir Island locality.

This particular pair is around 18-19 years old, purchased back when the Kunashir Island locality was a true rarity and highly sought after. Japanese rat snakes are fairly variable, and can be olive, green, brown or grey, but the true Kunashir Island form are more often blue or have bright blue heads.

They are extremely hardy species, very relaxed and laid back - until food is around, then they develop an insane feeding response that would make king snakes blush! They will take all kinds of small mammal and bird, and also love eggs which they devour with gusto! Like all the other Asian rat snakes on this thread, they possess modified vertebral hypapophyses to enable them to crack eggs more easily.




















 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Taiwanese Beauty Snake (Elaphe taeniurus friesi)

One of my beautiful Taiwanese Beauty Snakes shyly but purposefully exploring the floor of her enclosure.

There's just something about this particular snake I find irresistible. The golden olive colour, the pristine face, those clear eyes, the bright yellow markings on her tail. Exquisite.
















A good shot of the scales showing the prominent apical pits. These are thought to aid the animals detect changes in heat, light or pressure; the apical pits of some species also incorporate a filament-like hair that is likely to aid in the sense of touch. They may also assist in shedding.

Apical pits are found on dorsal scales (they are generally looked for on the nape of the neck and the dorsal scales). They are structures integral to the scale itself and are not present in the epidermis.

Apical pits do serve a purpose; that purpose has remained elusive and is not universally agreed upon, but they are not vestigial; in some species they are more derived than others and incorporate filaments. The tactile function of apical pits is speculative but is well documented in lizards but is not well studied in Snakes. However it is curious then that the only significant family of snakes that do not possess apical pits (elapidae) instead possess vibration sensitive mechanoreceptors in the same places (the fuction of which HAS been studied and which are unique to them) - and apical pits have been theorised to fulfill a similar role.

Another theory is that - as the pits can have varying levels of pigment such as melanin, they may be able to detect light intensity which could aid with basking or even predator recognition (response to shadows overhead).


 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Twin-Spotted Rat Snake (Elaphe bimaculata)

A very similar species to Dione's rat snake, occurring in Eastern China. These can be if anything more colourful than Dione's but I find them to be much more shy and less chilled around people, so they can be harder to observe. Some of mine are also comparatively defensive too, especially during shed.





I have a group of 2.2 of these snakes. One came from Crystal Palace around 2008, one is from Gidi van der Belt, and two were bought for me by my wife from Andrew Grimm.











More usually they spend their day hiding up near the UV or under logs.

 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
King Rat Snake (Elaphe carinata)

Not great images but I did not want to disturb him as he has a habit of smelling up my flat with his musk, and my wife is... shall we say, less than a fan of that.












The female also is less than thrilled about being bothered in her enclosure.



Beautiful, awe-inspiring snakes. Here you can see well the prominent keeled scales from which the snakes derive their binomial name carinata. Totally different feel to most other rat snacks, very rough to the touch.

 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Russian Rat Snake (Elaphe schrenckii)

Finishing off for today, here is one of my Russian rat snakes swanning around his cage not letting me catch him so I can clean it out. These are intensely curious, inquisitive and active snakes. Great fun to keep, and really imposing and striking animals as adults. My original pair are over twenty years old now (in fact I believe they are my current oldest rat snakes, I acquired them in 1995 from a garden centre as juveniles).

This one came from Florence Butler.







 

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Beautiful pictures, as usual, especially the twin spotted and Korean rats. The Koreans remind me of baby Russian rat snakes...

Very interesting about the apical pits. I've noticed them on my corns, but never knew what they were and always wondered why they were there ( and if anyone else has noticed them on their snakes ).
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Beautiful pictures, as usual, especially the twin spotted and Korean rats. The Koreans remind me of baby Russian rat snakes...
Thanks!


Yes, the Koreans and Russians look almost identical as babies, Koreans are sometimes slightly lighter after a few weeks. The Russians darken up as they grow, Koreans retain the juvenile colours which then can fade as they reach adulthood and sometimes become more or less uniform on the anterior half of the body.


Both used to be classified as Elaphe schrenckii, with Koreans considered a subspecies until Notker Helfenberger published "Phylogenetic relationship of Old World Ratsnakes based on visceral organ topography, osteology, and allozyme variation."


This was followed up in 2002 by "Molecular systematics and phylogeny of Old World and New World ratsnakes, Elaphe Auct., and related genera (Reptilia, Squamata, Colubridae)." by Helfenberger, Utiger et al.

Very interesting about the apical pits. I've noticed them on my corns, but never knew what they were and always wondered why they were there ( and if anyone else has noticed them on their snakes ).
Most snakes have them, but unless you are looking for them carefully they might not be noticeable. Many snakes have all sorts of different sensory apparatus in their scales, such as sensillae, parietal pits and so on. If you have a docile snake that will keep still you can examine them with a magnifying glass, or if you get a good shed you can see them there.
 

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All beautiful, but love the Japanese rat snakes especially. Is this a species where you let the lighting provide the heat or do you find they also need a dedicated heat source? I think I've read in the past that for some of the more temperate rat snakes you have found they get what they need in terms of heat from the lighting alone (apologies if I've misunderstood that).
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
All beautiful, but love the Japanese rat snakes especially. Is this a species where you let the lighting provide the heat or do you find they also need a dedicated heat source? I think I've read in the past that for some of the more temperate rat snakes you have found they get what they need in terms of heat from the lighting alone (apologies if I've misunderstood that).
Yes, in smaller vivs for babies the lighting does provide the heat of these (in fact with the fake rock walls I construct, they are made from insulators like polystyrene so even a fluorescent light can heat a small viv extremely satisfactorily.


However for the larger vivs for adults I use a 25W or 50W ceramic bulb on a stat to provide a slightly higher basking zone. This is only in the really big (48"x48" for example) vivs as these snakes do not like high heat. Ambient temperatures just above room temperature (22-23C) are enough for the rest of the enclosure.
 
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