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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 6

1. Elapidæ; or Elapides. — Diemenia. Gray. — Diemenia psammophis. Schleg. — The Grey Snake

page 42

1. Elapidæ; or Elapides.

Diemenia. Gray.

Diemenia psammophis. Schleg.

The Grey Snake.

The present species has been described by Dr. Günther as D. reticulata, under which name I have frequently alluded to it. It appears, however, that the snake to which Günther refers in his Cat. of Colubrine Snakes, when quoting Schlegel's figure (Abbildungen Tab. 46, No. 14), is that author's D. psammophis, which name has the priority, and ought to be adopted instead of, D. reticulata. The coloration is a uniform grey above, and greenish below, the central part of the ventrals being conspicuously marked with green; tips of scales and skin between them, black; and of tail, salmon colour; a yellowish dark edged streak crossing the rostral shield. The eye is encircled first by a black and then by a yellowish line, both ending in a point below the orbit.

The present species is found in nearly every part of Australia, the extreme North and South excepted. I have taken it eight years ago on the Murray and Darling, and since then specimens have come to hand from Brisbane, Port Curtis, and Rock-hampton. All these snakes differ no more from those of Sydney than these do amongst themselves. Much dependence can never be placed upon coloration as a distinguishing character in snakes, as in this no two reptiles vary so much as a snake about to shed its skin differs from itself after this operation has been successfully performed. I believe the present species to be the most common in our neighbourhood.

It frequents sandy localities, feeds on insects, small frogs, lizards, &c., and its bite does not cause any more irritation than the sting of a bee; from 15 to 20 eggs are deposited by the page 43 female under stones exposed to the sun, generally in the beginning of December, and perhaps earlier, as I have on more than one occasion taken the young snakes at the end of that month and in the beginning of January. This reptile is generally found from two to three feet in length, very rarely exceeding four feet. During the cold season the grey snake retires under flat stones exposed to the sun; it very seldom, if ever, goes into the ground; it is very sensitive to cold, and the least frost suffices to destroy it. I have found sometimes five and more of these reptiles under the same stone.