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Common Egg-eater (Dasypeltis scabra) Zoology


Note: Make sure to read the General Zoology page before reading this section!

| Description | Classification | Distribution | Natural Habitat | Natural Diet | Feeding Habits | Books | Related Topics | References & Further Reading |
| Email This Page | Common Egg-eater Care Sheet |

Egg-eating Snake Introduction & Description:

Egg-eating snakes are fascinating snakes whose name is derived from their natural diet. They make up a small group of snake species in the world with an exclusive egg diet. The Common Egg-eating snake (Dasypeltis scabra) is one of the African species in this group.

The normal colouration of Common Egg-eaters are grayish to brown with darker rhombic (square) markings or blotches or chevrons (v-shapes) down the back. A brown variation, apparently called the Common Brown Egg-eater, is commonly found in the southern parts of South Africa's Orange Free State. According to the literature these snakes are a bit smaller than Common Egg-eaters.

Common Egg-eating snakes have slender bodies with heavy roughened keeled scales. When agitated they coil and uncoil, allowing the lateral scales to rub against each other, causing a hissing or rasping sound whilst striking out viciously with an open mouth. The lining of the mouth is very dark and the teeth are reduced or totally absent (although the subfamily Dasypeltinae makes up the solid toothed colubrids). This species is kept more for its remarkable feeding habits than its appearance.

Common Egg-eaters are distinguished from the Common or Rhombic night adder (Causus rhombeatus) by having a v-marking behind the head instead of on the head, by having no teeth and by a dark to black lined inner mouth. The body is also more slender with rougher scales than the Night adder.

a Baby Egg-eater Picture b c d e Brown Egg-eater Picture
f Rhombic Nite Adder Picture g Night Adder Picture h  i j

Figure 1  Egg-eaters & similar snake species. a Baby Common egg-eater (Dasypeltis scabra). Note the v-marking behind the head; b Adult Common egg-eater busy swallowing an egg; c Adult Common egg-eater in a threatening position with its mouth agape. Note the dark lining of the inner mouth; d Another Common egg-eater with an open mouth. Note once again the dark lining, the absence of teeth & the trachea (airpipe); e & h Common Brown egg-eater (Dasypeltis inornata) naturally found more commonly in the eastern parts of Southern Africa; f & g Common or Rhombic night adders (Causus rhombeatus). Note the v-marking on the head, instead of behind the head like on the Common egg-eater & the more stout build. These snakes are nocturnal which, like Common Egg-eaters hide under logs and debris during the day. They are naturally more commonly found in the eastern parts of South Africa & northern parts of Zimbabwe & Botswana. Although they are poisonous (cytotoxic) their venom is not very potent & mainly causes pain & swelling. There are no recorded deaths reported with this snake; h Adult Dasypeltis inornata swallowing an egg; i & j Dasypeltis medici; k Dasypeltis atra.

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Egg-eating Snake Classification:


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Common Egg-eater (Dasypeltis scabra) Distribution Map)Egg-eating Snake Distribution Map:

Throughout most of southern Africa except the true desert and closed-canopy forest areas.

Egg-eating Snake Natural Diet:

Various sizes of eggs. Hatchlings Egg-eating snakes might also eat gecko or ant eggs.

Egg-eating Snake Feeding Habits:

Egg-eating snakes will first "test" eggs to ensure that it is not rotten before consumption. Mistakes however do occur. It seems that these snakes can tell the difference between unfertilised and embryonated eggs. Developed eggs are generally not consumed. A snake will start the feeding regime by wrapping or coiling around an egg to restrain it, after which it will start easing its mouth over the sharper end of the egg. Eggs are engulfed whole by virtue of the snake's hugely elastic jaws. The egg is then worked down into the guller area where specialised vertebrae with bony projections saw through the shell until it is cracked and the content is expelled. The content of the egg are swallowed and the empty shell is regurgitated (coughed up or expelled) as a neat package.

Egg-eating Snake Natural Habitat:

Dry thornveld and grasslands mostly in rock crevices and termite mounds or virtually in any other situation. These snakes are commonly found in urban areas in- and around urban houses and sheds, especially during the colder winter months.

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Egg-eating Snake Books:

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"If you did not understand something or thought that I left a few things out, read the General Zoology page. If you think I should add more information to this section or think that something is incorrect, contact me and let me know. I would love to hear your ideas or methods you might use that is different than ours."

Last updated 14 May 2005 by Renier Delport

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Related Topics:

General Zoology
General Snake Care Sheet
Common Egg-eater Care Sheet
Photoperiod & Brumation / Hibernation
Feeding Problems
Size, Appearance & Average Contents Of Different Eggs

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References & Further Reading:

Bartlett, Patricia P., Grisworld, Billy, DVM & Bartlett, R.D., 2001 Reptiles, Amphibians, and Invertebrates - An Identification and Care Guide.

Miller, Stephan A. & Harley, John B., 1999 Zoology, Fourth Edition, WCB McGraw-Hill.

Marais, Johan, 1999 Snakes & Snake Bite in Southern Africa. Struik Publishers.

Mattison, Chris, 1998 Keeping & Breeding Snakes, Second Edition. Blandford.

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| Description | Classification | Distribution | Natural Habitat | Natural Diet | Feeding Habits | Books | Related Topics | References & Further Reading |
| Email This Page | Common Egg-eater Care Sheet |





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