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Fowlea piscator

Fowlea piscator (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: Natricinae
Genus: Fowlea
Species: Fowlea piscator

Fowlea piscator (Schneider, 1799)

Holotype: BMNH 1904.7.27.32, skin [Russell (1796: 38, pl. 33)].
Type locality: “Indiae orientalis”, restricted to “the northern coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh State, eastern India” by Vogel & David (2012: 6)].


Hydrus piscator Schneider, 1799: 247 [original combination]
Natrix piscator — Merrem, 1820: 122 [subsequent combination]
Tropidonotus piscator — Boie, 1827: 535 [subsequent combination]
Nerodia piscator — Wall, 1923 [subsequent combination]
Fowlea piscator — Malnate, 1960 [subsequent combination]
Xenochrophis piscator — Malnate & Minton, 1965 [subsequent combination]

Primary references

Schneider, J.G. 1799. Historiae Amphibiorum naturalis et literariae. Fasciculus primus, continens Ranas, Calamitas, Bufones, Salamandras et Hydros in genera et species descriptos notisque suis distinctos. Frommani: Jenae. 264 pp. BHL Reference page.
Merrem, B. 1820. Versuch eines Systems der Amphibien. Johann Christian Krieger: Marburg. xv + 191 pp., 1 pl. BHL Reference page.


Uetz, P. & Hallermann, J. 2022. Fowlea piscator. The Reptile Database. Accessed on 12 October 2019.

Vernacular names
বাংলা: জলঢোঁড়া, আটঘরিয়া সাপ
English: Checkered Keelback

The checkered keelback (Fowlea piscator), also known commonly as the Asiatic water snake, is a common species in the subfamily Natricinae of the family Colubridae. The species is endemic to Asia. It is non-venomous.
Swimming in Kerala
Checkered keelback at Taudaha, kathmandu

The eye of F. piscator is rather small and shorter than its distance from the nostril in the adult. Its rostral scale is visible from above. The internasal scales are much narrowed anteriorly and subtriangular, with the anterior angle truncated and as long as the prefrontal scales. The frontal scale is longer than its distance from the end of the snout, and as long as the parietals or a little shorter. The loreal is nearly as long as it is deep. There are one preocular and three (rarely four) post-oculars. Its temporals are 2+2 or 2+3. There are normally nine upper labials, with the fourth and fifth entering the eye; and five lower labials in contact with the anterior chin-shields, which are shorter than the posterior. The dorsal scales are arranged in 19 rows, strongly keeled, with outer rows smooth. The ventrals number 125–158, the anal is divided, and the subcaudals number 64–90. Coloration is very variable, consisting of dark spots arranged quincuncially and often separated by a whitish network, or of black longitudinal bands on a pale ground, or of dark crossbands, with or without whitish spots. Two oblique black streaks, one below and the other behind the eye, are nearly constant. The lower parts are white, with or without black margins to the shields.[2]

The checkered keelback is a medium-sized snake, but may grow to be large. Adults may attain a snout-to-vent length (SVL) of 1.75 m (5.7 ft).[3]
Checkered-keelback in IIT Bombay.JPG
Defensive behavior

Most of the time this snake tries to raise its head as much as possible and expand its neck skin mimicking a cobra hood and intimidate the threat. Though it is non-venomous to humans, it can deliver a painful bite which is inflammatory.

F. piscator may lose its tail as an escape mechanism. A rare case of such autotomy is reported from Vietnam.[4]

The preferred habitat of F. piscator is in or near freshwater lakes or rivers.
Checkered Keelback at Khulna
A Checkered keelback (locally known as "Joldhora") spotted swimming at Beel Dakatia, Khulna, Bangladesh

F. piscator feeds mainly on small fish and water frogs.

F. piscator is oviparous. Clutch size is usually 30-70 eggs, but may be as few as 4 or as many as 100. Egg size is also variable. Each egg may be 1.5–4.0 cm (0.59–1.57 in) long. The female guards the eggs until they hatch. Each hatchling is about 11 cm (4.3 in) long.[3]
Geographic range

F. piscator is found in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, West Malaysia, China (Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Fujian, Guangdong, Hainan, Guangxi, Yunnan), Taiwan, Australia and Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, Borneo, Celebes = Sulawesi)

type locality: "East Indies".

F. p. melanzostus (Gravenhorst, 1807) – Indonesia (Borneo [?], Java, Sulawesi [?]; Sumatra), India (Andaman and Nicobar Islands)
F. p. piscator (Schneider, 1799) – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Pakistan, People's Republic of China (including Hainan), Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Thailand

Nota bene: A trinomial authority in parentheses indicates that the subspecies was originally described in a genus other than Fowlea.

The subspecies F. p. melanzostus was raised to species status, as Fowlea melanzostus, by Indraneil Das in 1996.
Local names

Mizo – tui rul
Assamese – ঢোঁৰা সাপ
Bengali – জল ঢোঁড়া/আটঘরিয়া সাপ
Odia – ଧଣ୍ଡ ସାପ
Gujarati – ડેંડવો સાપ
Hindi – dendu saap
Indonesia – bandotan tutul
Kannada – ನೀರು ಹಾವು
Marathi – दिवड
Malayalam – നീർക്കോലി,പുളവൻ (Neerkkoli, Pulavan)
Tamil – கண்டங்கண்டை நீர்க்கோலி (kandangkandai neerkoli)
Telugu – నీరు కట్టే (neeru katte)
Bihari – dhoriya saap
Nepali – dhode/dhoriya saap
Chinese (Traditional Chinese) – "漁游蛇"
Chinese (Simplified Chinese) – "渔游蛇"
Sinhalese - "දිය බරියා"
Thai – งูลายสอ


Species Xenochrophis piscator at The Reptile Database .
Boulenger GA (1890). The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma. Reptilia and Batrachia. London: Secretary of State for India in Council. (Taylor and Francis, printers). xviii + 541 pp. (Tropidonotus piscator, pp. 349-350).
Das I (2002). A Photographic Guide to Snakes and other Reptiles of India. Sanibel Island, Florida: Ralph Curtis Books. 144 pp. ISBN 0-88359-056-5. (Xenochrophis piscator, p. 48).

Ananjeva NB, Orlov NL (1994). "Caudal Autotomy in Colubrid Snake Xenochrophis piscator From Vietnam" Russian Journal of Herpetology 1 (2): 169-171.

Further reading

Boulenger GA (1893). Catalogue of the Snakes in the .Volume I., Containing the Families ... Colubridæ Aglyphæ, part. London: Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History). (Taylor and Francis, printers). xiii + 448 pp. + Plates I-XXVIII. (Tropidonotus piscator, pp. 230–232).
Dutt, Kalma (1970). "Chromosome Variation in Two Populations of Xenochrophis piscator Schn. from North and South India (Serpentes, Colubridae)". Cytologia 35: 455–464.
Schneider JG (1799). Historiae Amphibiorum naturalis et literariae. Fasciculus Primus, continens Ranas, Calamitas, Bufones, Salamandras et Hydros. Jena: F. Frommann. xiii + 264 pp. + corrigenda + Plate I. (Hydrus piscator, new species, pp. 247–248). (in Latin).
Smith MA (1943). The Fauna of British India, Ceylon and Burma, Including the Whole of the Indo-Chinese Sub-region. Amphibia and Reptilia. Vol. III.—Serpentes. London: Secretary of State for India. (Taylor and Francis, printers). xii + 583 pp. (Tropidonotus piscator, pp. 293–296, Figures 95–96).


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