Facts About Cape Coral Snakes
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7 Surprising Facts About Cape Coral Snakes

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The Cape Coral Snake (Aspidelaps lubricus) is a fascinating species of venomous elapid native to southern Africa. With its vibrant red, black, and yellow banding and secretive nature, this snake has captured the curiosity of reptile enthusiasts worldwide1. But there’s more to this creature than its striking appearance.

Here are 7 surprising facts about the biology and behavior of the Cape Coral snake.

1. It’s not a coral snake

Despite its common name, the Cape Coral snake is not closely related to American coral snakes or other Micrurus species. Instead, it belongs to the genus Aspidelaps, consisting of other small terrestrial or burrowing snakes found predominantly across southern and eastern Africa.

So while it mimics the familiar red-and-black banded pattern of true coral snakes, the Cape Coral snake has separately evolved this coloration as a form of warning signal about its highly potent venom.

angolan coral snake, cape coral snake, kap-zwergschildkobra, schildnasenkobra, western coral snake
angolan coral snake, cape coral snake, kap-zwergschildkobra, schildnasenkobra, western coral snake

2. Their venom can cause respiratory failure

The Cape coral snake’s venom contains powerful neurotoxins that interfere with nerve signaling. Bites, though rare, can result in symptoms like slurred speech, drooping eyelids, muscle paralysis and respiratory failure requiring intubation.

Without antivenom treatment, the venom’s neurotoxic effects can persist for over 12 hours in humans. So medical attention is crucial for anyone bitten by one of these small but dangerous snakes.

3. They spend most of their time hiding underground

The Cape coral snake is a secretive, burrowing species that spends up to 80% of its time sheltering below ground or hidden under leaf litter and debris. Their fossorial nature makes them rarely encountered above surface.

Their camouflaged bands perfectly match the reddish soil and black shadows found in their natural habitat range across South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. Patient observers may catch a glimpse of them emerging at night to hunt.

4. They have unique reproductive methods

Female Cape coral snakes utilize ovoviviparity – a unique reproductive strategy where fertilized eggs are retained inside the body during embryonic development instead of being laid externally. Eventually, the female gives birth to live young that immediately fend for themselves.

This adaption likely boosts the survival rate for offspring born into the extreme subterranean environments these snakes occupy.

5. They have a 10 year lifespan

Compared to other small snake species that may only live 3-5 years, the Cape coral snake is relatively long-lived. Kept in captivity, they can survive over a decade if provided adequate humidity, shelter and food sources like lizards, rodents and other snakes.

Their slow metabolism and sporadic feeding habits enable these snakes to persist even in harsh natural environments.

6. Baby snakes can’t control their venom usage

Even newly hatched Cape coral snakes possess the same potentially lethal neurotoxic venom as adults from birth. But babies often have less control initially over how much venom they inject when biting defensively.

So extra caution is warranted around juvenile snakes, since an uncontrolled high dose of venom could be delivered in their unpredictable bites.

7. They play a beneficial ecosystem role

Despite wariness about their venom, Cape coral snakes help control rodent and pest populations that can damage crops and spread disease. And they serve as prey for predators like mongoose, genets and birds of prey that help regulate snake numbers.

So these mesmerizing snakes fill an important niche throughout their native habitat range in southern Africa.


Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions people have about snakes in the Cape Coral area:

What are the most venomous snakes found around Cape Coral?

The most dangerous venomous snakes near Cape Coral are the Eastern coral snake, cottonmouth, and Eastern diamondback rattlesnake. All three have potent venom that can be fatal without rapid treatment.

Are there any giant snakes like anacondas or pythons in Cape Coral?

No native giant snake species live in Cape Coral, but invasive Burmese pythons have been known to migrate into the suburbs from the nearby Everglades ecosystem. These can grow over 20 feet long.

What should I do if I see a snake in my Cape Coral yard?

If you encounter any snake near your home, stay calm and back away slowly to provide space. Try to note details like color patterns and size to help identify whether it may be venomous. Then contact animal control to safely remove it.

Are baby venomous snakes dangerous?

Yes, even newborn venomous snakes can deliver bites with the same toxins as adults. Sometimes babies have less control over venom usage, making their bites potentially more hazardous.

How can I snake-proof areas around my Cape Coral house?

Trimming vegetation, sealing cracks in foundations, storing pet food securely indoors, and keeping spaces clear of debris/litter can deter snakes from entering areas near your home.

Conclusion

The Cape coral snake is truly a marvel of evolution with its vivid coloration and secretive adaptations for subsurface living. Appreciating unique facts about their venom, hunting behaviors, reproduction and ecosystem benefits can help observers better understand and cautiously admire these captivating creatures.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspidelaps_lubricus []

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