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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 6

Hoplocephalus Signatus. Jan. — Black-bellied Hoplocephalus

Hoplocephalus Signatus. Jan.

Black-bellied Hoplocephalus.

Body short and rounded; tail short, distinct from trunk; head triangular, distinct from neck: above brownish olive, head much lighter coloured, with a white-edged dark streak from behind the eye to the back of the neck.

Description—head shields regular; vertical, six sided, with obtuse angle in front, and a sharp one behind; superciliaries rather large, nearly as long as the vertical occipitals; much forked behind, sometimes angular, but more generally rounded; nasal large, pierced by the nostril; one anterior, two posterior oculars; rostral high, with a groove along its lower edge; six page 50 upper labials, third and fourth coming into the orbit; a white or yellowish-edged dark streak from behind the eye to the back of the bead, no collar; eye moderate, pupil rather sub-elliptical; in young individuals the pupil appears always quite rounded; scales six-sided, much larger on the sides than upon the back; skin between the scales black.

Young specimens have the whitish streak behind the eye very distinct and often extended on the other side as far as the nostril; the apical half of the tail is either whitish or salmon-coloured below; in other respects they do not differ from the adult in colour, except that the whitish hue on the sides of the neck is less distinct. In the adult subject the head is often much paler than the other part of the body, which is either olive brown or brownish black above, and bluish black or bluish grey below; the fourth part of each ventral scale is clouded with grey on the sides, leaving a much darker band in the middle, which, approaching the neck, diminishes in size; the sides of the neck below and the chin shields being of a yellowish hue. Individuals occur occasionally, which are almost black above; others, particularly those about to shed their skin, appear pale brown above, and bluish grey below; in removing any of the ventral plates, the skin below is always jet black.


The present species abounds in sandy or swampy localities near Sydney; the country between the City and Botany is much frequented by these snakes; they appear to be nocturnal, and are seldom observed during the day-time; they often prey upon each other, but generally upon the smaller Batrachians (Cystignathus and Pseudophryne) which I have frequently taken from their stomachs; various kinds of insects, small lizards, &c., are also devoured by them. The venom of this snake does not effect the larger vertebrated animals. I have at various times experimented upon cats and goats with it, but without a single fatal result; in fact the animals bitten did not appear to be affected at all.

Mrs. Edw. Forde of Ash Island, to whom I am greatly indebted for much valuable information respecting the reptilian fauna of the Hunter River, informs me that Hoplocephalus page 51 signatus is the most common of the Snakes on Ash Island, and that it is frequently captured and carried about by domestic cats, generally at night, proving at once its nocturnal habits and the slight effect its venom has upon these animals.

At Port Macquarie, this Snake occurs in large numbers, also at the Richmond and Clarence Rivers, but from beyond Brisbane I have never seen any specimens. I believe that it is also found in the neighbourhood of Melbourne. It is probably identical with Hoplocephalus flagellum (M'Coy).

The female produces from 15 to 25 young ones annually, total length 20 inches, tail 4 inches, cleft of mouth ? of inch.