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Tentacled Snake 1

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: Homalopsoidea

Familia: Homalopsidae
Genus: Erpeton
Species: Erpeton tentaculatum

Erpeton tentaculatum Lacépède, 1800: 169

Holotype: MNHN 22.

Type locality: unknown
Primary references

Lacépède, B.G.H. 1800. Sur un nouveau genre de serpent. Bulletin des Sciences, par la Société Philomatique 2(46): 169. BHL

Additional references

Murphy, J.C. & Voris, H.K. 2014. A Checklist and Key to the Homalopsid Snakes (Reptilia, Squamata, Serpentes), with the Description of New Genera. Fieldiana: Life and Earth Sciences 8: 1–43. Reference page.


Uetz, P. & Hallermann, J. 2021. Erpeton tentaculatum. The Reptile Database. Accessed on 25 November 2018.
Murphy, J., Brooks, S.E. & Bain, R.H. 2010. IUCN: Erpeton tentaculatum (Least Concern). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T176697A7285596. DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2010-4.RLTS.T176697A7285596.en

Vernacular names
English: Tentacle Water Snake
日本語: ヒゲミズヘビ
ไทย: งูกระด้าง

The tentacled snake or tentacle snake (Erpeton tentaculatum) is a rear-fanged aquatic snake native to Southeast Asia. It is the only species of the genus Erpeton. The two tentacles on its snout are a unique feature among snakes.


The tentacled snake is a relatively small snake, averaging about 50 to 90 cm (20 to 35 in) in length.[3][4] They are known to come in two color phases, striped or blotched, with both phases ranging from dark gray or brown to a light tan. It lives its entire life in murky water.

The tentacled snake is the only species of snake to possess twin "tentacles" on the front of its head, which have been shown to have mechanosensory function.[5] Its diet consists solely of fish.[1]

Although it does have venomous fangs, the tentacled snake is not considered dangerous to humans. The fangs are small, only partially grooved, and positioned deep in the rear of the mouth.[6] The venom is specific to the fish that the tentacled snake eats.[4]

A native of Southeast Asia, the tentacled snake can be found in Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.[1][2] The snake lives its entire life in the murky water of lakes, rice paddies, and slow moving streams, and can be found in fresh, brackish, and sea water. A prime example of its habitat is the Tonlé Sap lake in central Cambodia. The water there contains much silt and has a large fish population.
Tonlé Sap lake, Cambodia

The young develop ovoviviparously and are born live underwater.[3]

Tentacled snakes spend their whole life in the water and can stay underwater for up to 30 minutes without coming up for air.[4] They can only move awkwardly on land. In dry times and at night, the snake may burrow itself in the mud.[3]

Hunting is accomplished via a unique ambush method. Tentacled snakes spend much of their time in a rigid posture.[3] The tail is used to anchor the animal underwater while its body assumes a distinctive upside-down "J" shape. The striking range is a narrow area downwards from its head, somewhat towards its body. Once a fish swims within that area the snake will strike by pulling itself down in one quick motion towards the prey.

Through the use of high-speed cameras and hydrophones, the snake's method of ambush is revealed in greater detail. The snake anticipates the movements of the fish as it attempts to escape. As the fish swims into range, the snake creates a disturbance in the water by moving part of its body posterior to the neck. This disturbance triggers an escape reflex in the fish called the C-start, in which the fish contorts its body into a "C" shape. Normally at this point the fish would swim quickly away from the disturbance by quickly straightening its body, but the snake grabs it, usually by the head, anticipating its movement. The snake catches fish by tricking them into reflexively attempting to escape in the wrong direction.[7] Unlike most predators, the snake doesn't aim for the fish's initial position and then adjust its direction as the fish moves, it heads directly for the location where it expects the fish's head to be.[8][9] The ability to predict the position of its prey appears to be innate.[10]

The tentacled snake retracts its eyes when it begins to strike.[7]

Murphy, J.; Brooks, S.E. & Bain, R.H. (2010). "Erpeton tentaculatum". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2010: e.T176697A7285596. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2010-4.RLTS.T176697A7285596.en.
Erpeton tentaculatum at the Reptile Database. Accessed 14 February 2015.[dead link]
"Tentacled Snake". Toronto Zoo. Archived from the original on 17 July 2021. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
Catania, K. C.; D. B. Leitch & D. Gauthier (2010). "Function of the appendages in tentacled snakes (Erpeton tentaculatus)". Journal of Experimental Biology. 213 (3): 359–367. doi:10.1242/jeb.039685. PMID 20086119.
Fry, Bryan G.; Holger Scheib; Louise van der Weerd; Bruce Young; Judith McNaughtan; S. F. Ryan Ramjan; Nicolas Vidal; Robert E. Poelmann & Janette A. Norman (2008). "Evolution of an arsenal: structural and functional diversification of the venom system in the advanced snakes (Caenophidia)" (PDF). Molecular & Cellular Proteomics. 7 (2): 215–246. doi:10.1074/mcp.M700094-MCP200. PMID 17855442.
"The tentacled snake turns a fish's defence into a death march". Not Exactly Rocket Science: Science for Everyone. ScienceBlogs. Archived from the original on 2009-06-19. Retrieved 2009-06-18.
University, Vanderbilt (18 June 2009). "Discovery of a Water Snake That Predicts the Direction Its Prey Will Flee". Newswise. Retrieved 14 July 2021.
Communications, Vanderbilt Division of (18 June 2009). "Video: Tentacled snake in action". Vanderbilt University. Retrieved 14 July 2021.

Kenneth C. Catania (2010). "Born Knowing: Tentacled Snakes Innately Predict Future Prey Behavior". PLOS ONE. 5 (6): e10953. Bibcode:2010PLoSO...510953C. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010953. PMC 2886828. PMID 20585384.


Catania, Kenneth C (2011). "Natural-Born Killer: Lethal from day one, the tentacled snake uses surprisingly sly tactics to capture fish." Scientific American. April 2011, pp. 65–67.


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