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Dolichophis caspius

Dolichophis caspius (Source)

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Superphylum: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Cladus: Craniata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Cladus: Reptiliomorpha
Cladus: Amniota
Classis: Reptilia
Cladus: Eureptilia
Cladus: Romeriida
Subclassis: Diapsida
Cladus: Sauria
Infraclassis: Lepidosauromorpha
Superordo: Lepidosauria
Ordo: Squamata
Subordo: Serpentes
Infraordo: Caenophidia
Superfamilia: Colubroidea

Familia: Colubridae
Subfamilia: Colubrinae
Genus: Dolichophis
Species: Dolichophis caspius
Subspecies: D. c. caspius – D. c. eiselti

Dolichophis caspius (Gmelin, 1789)

Type locality: “steppes of Jaiki, lower basin of the urals”.

Coluber caspius Gmelin, 1789
Coluber acontistes Pallas, 1814
Coluber thermalis Pallas, 1814
Coluber jugularis caspius — Wütschert, 1984
Coluber jugularis caspius — Nöllert et al., 1986
Coluber caspius —Schätti & Wilson, 1986
Hierophis caspius — Schätti, 1988
Hierophis caspius — Engelmann, 1993
Coluber jugularis caspius — Jessat, 1998
Coluber caspius — Szczerbak, 2003
Coluber caspius — Van der Voort, 2004
Hierophis caspius — Nagy et al., 2004
Hierophis caspius — Kumlutas et al., 2004
Dolichophis caspius — Nagy et al., 2004
Coluber (s.l.) caspius — Venchi & Sindaco, 2006


Gmelin, S.G. 1789. In: Linnaeus, C. Systema Naturae per regna tria naturae secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus 1, Pars III. Editio decima tertia, aucta, reformata. Georg. Emanuel Beer, Lipsiae [Leipzig]. pp. 1033-1516.
Nagy, Z.T.; Schmidtler, J.F. Joger, U. & Wink, M. 2004. Systematik der Zwergnattern (Reptilia: Colubridae: Eirenis) und verwandter Gruppen anhand von DNA-Sequenzen und morphologischen Daten. Salamandra 39 (3/4): 149–168.
Venchi, Alberto and Roberto Sindaco 2006. Annotated checklist of the reptiles of the Mediterranean countries, with keys to species identification. Part 2 -Snakes (Reptilia, Serpentes). Annali del Museo Civico di Storia Naturale "G. Doria", Genova, XCVIII: 259–364.
Dolichophis caspius at the New Reptile Database. Accessed on 30 August 2008.

Vernacular names
беларуская: Жаўтабрухі полаз
Deutsch: Balkan-Springnatter
English: Balkan Whip Snake

The Caspian whipsnake (Dolichophis caspius, sometimes also Coluber caspius) also known as the large whipsnake (among various other species in genus Dolichophis/Coluber), is a common species of whipsnake found in the Balkans and parts of Eastern Europe.


The Caspian whipsnake is perhaps the largest species of snake in Europe. It typically grows to around 140–160 cm (55–63 in) in length, though a few may exceed a length of 200 cm (79 in). The record sized specimen was approximately 250 cm (98 in)[1][2] Body mass can be commonly from 120 to 673 g (4.2 to 23.7 oz).[3] This species is not venomous and is mostly active during the day. The head is joined to the body by a thick neck. Its pupils are round. Nineteen rows of smooth scales can be found at the middle body, though rarely there may be seventeen. Dorsal scales each have two apical pits at the posterior edge. The centre of the scale is lighter in colour than the edges.[1] The dorsal side is grey-brown and features markings which are distinctive in juveniles and young snakes but fade with age. The ventral side is light yellow or white.

Since its original description by Johann Friedrich Gmelin in 1789, D. caspius has been known by many names. A list of such synonyms is given below:[4]

Coluber caspius Gmelin, 1789
Coluber acontistes Pallas, 1814
Coluber thermalis Pallas, 1814
Coluber jugularis caspius — Wütschert, 1984
Hierophis caspius — Schätti, 1988
Dolichophis caspius — Nagy et al., 2004

Nota bene: In a synonymy, names without dashes are new taxa (described as new species). However, names with dashes are just new combinations (moved to a different genus, changed from species to subspecies, etc.).
Caspian whipsnake from Ochakiv, South Ukraine

The Caspian whipsnake is found in the Balkan peninsula, parts of Eastern Europe and a small portion of Asia Minor. It may be found in Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, North Macedonia, Serbia, Romania, Croatia, Turkey, Moldova, Montenegro, southern Ukraine, southern Russia, Kazakhstan, and southern Hungary.[4][5] Results from a survey indicate their habitats may be distributed along low areas near major rivers, such as the Danube and the Olt River.[6]

It was previously assumed extinct in Moldavia (eastern Romania, southern Ukraine, and western Moldova), where it was only known from two sites, and not observed since 1937.[7] Three specimens were collected in May 2007 in Galați County, somewhat dispelling this belief.[7] Though it is known to be common in the Dobrudja area, knowledge of its distribution in other areas is poor. It is believed to be very rare in these parts, and may also be highly threatened. National legislation has declared D. caspius to be "a species of community interest" and thus must be strictly protected.[6]

In Hungary, it was formerly thought only to exist in two areas: one near the capital of Budapest, and another near Szársomlyó. However, a recent survey of the region has yielded several previously unknown whipsnake habitats along the River Danube, including sites near Dunaújváros and Dunaföldvár.[8] As in Romania, D. caspius is a protected species in Hungary.[8]

Recently observed specimens of D. caspius were found in grassy, open areas with sparse shrubbery. They have also been found in open, bushy areas, specifically, between the Danube Meadow and Romanian Plain, near Căscioarele.[6] Vine covered areas were found near this habitat as well. At Drăgăneşti Olt, the species was found on a hilly slope.[6] Its habitat also includes rocky riverbanks and swampy areas, as well as gardens and cemeteries.

The Caspian whipsnake is a generalist predator and feeds on various vertebrates. Its diet may include small mammals, lizards, birds, and other snakes.[9] Though not venomous, the Caspian whipsnake is considered "ferocious" and bites quickly and without warning. Due to its ability to consume rodents which may harm crops, it is valued as natural pest control.[1]

Data on the conservation status of D. caspius in many regions are sparse. Whilst it is known to be common in the Dobrudja area, it may be rare and threatened in other areas. In Drăgăneşti Olt, Romania, road-killed snakes are a "common sight" to locals. Traffic-related deaths may be a cause of their decline in Romania.[6] One of the recently observed habitats, the Romanian Plain, is known to be heavily affected by agriculture. Habitat loss to agriculture may also be a cause of the species' decline in Romania.[6]

"Dolichophis caspius (Caspian Whip Snake)". TrekNature. Archived from the original on 18 December 2019. Retrieved 18 January 2010.
"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-06-19. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
Frank, K. & Dudas, G. (2018). Body size and seasonal condition of Caspian Whip Snakes, Dolichophis caspius (Gmelin, 1789), in southwestern Hungary. Herpetozoa, 30 (3/4): 131-138.
"Dolichophis caspius GMELIN, 1789". The Reptile Database. J. Craig Venter Institute. Retrieved 18 January 2010.
Mazzei, Paolo; Ilaria Pimpinelli. "Dolichophis caspius (Gmelin, 1789)". Amphibians and Reptiles of Europe. Retrieved 18 January 2010.
Covaciu-Marcov, Severus-Daniel; Anamaria David (16 December 2008). "Dolichophis caspius (Serpentes: Colubridae) in Romania: New distribution records from the northern limit of its range" (PDF). Turkish Journal of Zoology. TÜBİTAK. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-12-08.
Strugariu, Alexandru; Iulian Gherghel (2007). "New record on the occurrence of Dolichophis caspius (Reptilia: Colubridae) in Romanian Moldavia" (PDF). North-Western Journal of Zoology. 3 (1): 5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 18 January 2010.
Bellaagh, Matyas; Zoltan Korsos; Gdbor Szelenyi (2008). "New occurrences of the Caspian Whipsnake, Dolichophis caspius (Reptilia: Serpentes: Colubridae) along the River Danube in Hungary (Abstract)". Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Sofia. Retrieved 18 January 2010.
Plettenberg-Laing, Anthony; Mee, George (2020). "Remarks on the diet of Dolichophis caspius (Gmelin, 1789) from Greece". Herpetology Notes. 13: 989–991.


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