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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California



Brahminy Blindsnake - Ramphotyphlops braminus

(Daudin, 1803)
Click on a picture for a larger view



Brahminy Blindsnake California Range MapLocation of introduced population
in California: Red

Click map to enlarge



observation link






This is an alien species that has been introduced into California. It is not a native species.

If you think you found a Brahminy Blindsnake in California:

Please notify Dr. Gregory B. Pauly at gpauly@nhm.org. Dr. Pauly is Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and is part of a team that is documenting the rapid introduction and establishment of this species into Southern California with the help of people who contact this website and other citizen science projects. If you can, take pictures and send them to him, including close-ups of the eyes and nose if possible. Also, please hold on to the snake if you can. Someone may need to collect and examine it to confirm that it is a Brahminy Blindsnake which is similar in appearance to the native Western Threadsnake. 

See below for information about how to tell the two species apart and make sure that the snake you found is a Brahminy Blindsnake. It's not easy to see the tiny details on these little snakes, especially when they are scared and squirming around, so if you are still in doubt of the species after checking the identification information, please contact Dr. Pauly anyway. You are welcome to contact me at this web site also if you need to.

Brahminy Blindsnake
Adult, Kauai, Hawaii
Brahminy Blindsnake Brahminy Blindsnake Brahminy Blindsnake
Adult female (all snakes of this species are female), Kauai, Hawaii Adult, showing tongue, Kauai, Hawaii Adult, Kauai, Hawaii
Brahminy Blindsnake Brahminy Blindsnake Brahminy Blindsnake
Adult, Kauai, Hawaii Adult, Kauai, Hawaii Underside of adult, Kauai, Hawaii
Brahminy Blindsnake Brahminy Blindsnake Brahminy Blindsnake
Eye Nose Tongue
Brahminy Blindsnake Brahminy Blindsnake Brahminy Blindsnake
Spine on end of tail Adult, Monroe County, Florida
  Brahminy Blindsnake  
  Specimen found in a home in
Chula Vista, San Diego County 2015
 
     
Habitat
Brahminy Blindsnake Habitat Brahminy Blindsnake Habitat Brahminy Blindsnake Habitat
Three views of the area where the snakes were recorded in Chula Vista, San Diego County.
 
Short Video
  Brahminy Blindsnake  
  A Brahminy Blind Snake found in Florida is released, and crawls away rapidly with serpentine motion.  
   
Description

Not Dangerous (Not poisonous, Non-venomous)  -  This snake does not have venom that is dangerous to most humans.

Size
2.5 - 7 inches in length (14 - 18 cm.)

Appearance
A small, dark, worm-like snake with smooth, shiny scales, a short head with no neck, a short tail which ends in a small spine, and light spots where the eyes should be.
18 - 20 midbody scale rows.
20 uniform rows of costal scales.
The nasal shields are divided and the eye is not entirely in the Ocular shield.
Color and Pattern
Color is typically dark brown, but can be pale or yellowish brown, or grey.
The underside is lighter than the rest of the body.

Similar Snakes in California

Click on photo to enlarge
The Rostral Scale

One way to tell the difference between these two very similar species is to look at the large scale on the front of the nose (the Rostral Scale.)

The native threadsnakes have a large rostral scale that is pointed up between the eyes in a triangular shape.

The Brahminy blindsnake has a large rostral scale that points up between the eyes in an upside down "U" shape. The rostral scale also has edge lines that look like stitches and parallel lines inside the scale that also look like rows of stitches. These lines of "stitches" are absent on the Threadsnakes and the edges of their rostral scale are straight, not "stitched."


The Dark Eye Spot

Another detail to look at is the dark eye spot. The eye spot on the Western Threadsnake is centered in the large ocular scale. On the Brahminy blindsnake the eye spot is in the upper portion of the ocular scale, and the top of the ocular scale often crosses over the upper edge of the eye spot. The ocular scale also appears more pointed on the bottom than on the Western Threadsnake which is wider on the bottom.

Go to this page to see more Comparisons of the two subspecies of native threadsnakes and the Brahminy blindsnake.

If you think you have found a non-native Brahminy Blindsnake in California, please notify Dr. Gregory B. Pauly of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County at gpauly@nhm.org.

Life History and Behavior
This species has colonized much of the world by stowing away in the soil of nursery plants, due to its small size and ability to reproduce on its own without having to find a mate of the same species.

Spends much time underground, but also found underneath surface objects and on the surface, especially after saturating rains.

The eyes are not capable of seeing, but they can detect the presence of light.
Diet and Feeding
Eats ants, insect larvae, and other small invertebrates.
Breeding
Parthenogenetic. All snakes are females that are capable of reproducing without males.
Oviporous, laying 2 to 7 tiny eggs.

Habitat
Prefers warm areas with high soil humidity. Typically found in urban and agricultural areas near ant and termite nests, but also found in gardens, jungles, forests, and other habitats. Usually found under logs, rocks, rotting wood, moist leaves and humus.

Geographical Range
Likely native to South Asia, but reported worldwide including Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Australia, India, Southeast Asia, China, Indonesia, the Phillapines, Mexico, the United States, Caribbean Islands, and Central America.

This wide-ranging alien is also established in Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Texas, and Virginia, and reported from several other states.

Sightings in California
The species was first documented from California in 2010:

Palmer, Daniel D., and Robert N. Fisher. Herpetological Review Volume 41, Number 4 - December 2010 P. 518.

"RAMPHOTYPHLOPS BRAMINUS (Brahminy Blind Snake). USA: CALIFORNIA: San diego co.: City of Chula Vista  ....
07 November 2006. Marcos Dominguez, Sarmed D. Alzubaidi, and Stanley O’Gara.

A second specimen was collected on 28 September 2009 by Daniel D. Palmer, Tony E. Garcia, Trevor H. Jordan. Verified by Jens Vindum. California Academy of Sciences (CAS 244221–244222).

This is the first record for California and the west coast of the USA (Kraus 2009. Alien Reptiles and Amphibians: A Scientific Compendium and Analysis. Invading Nature: Springer Series in Invasion Ecology 4. Springer-Verlag. 563 pp.). Apparently reproducing and established given that the first specimen was an adult collected in 2006 and the second specimen collected in 2009 was a small juvenile. Both were found in an urban setting. It is not known if this species will invade native habitats in southern California or presents a risk to native species. Urban Chula Vista is dominated by invasive Argentine Ants (Linepithema humile) and it is assumed that this invasive will be abundant prey for the snake.

Submitted by DANIEL D. PALMER, Wildlife Research Institute, 18030 Highland Valley Road, Ramona, California 92065, USA; and ROBERT N. FISHER U.S. Geological Survey, San Diego Field Station, 4165 Spruance Road, Suite 200, San Diego, California 92101-0812, USA; e-mail: rfisher@usgs.gov."


Since 2010, others have been found which will be documented soon.

Some areas in the state where the snake has been reported but not yet verified and documented in a publication are:

Marina Del Rey
Orange County
La Mesa
Costa Mesa
Bakersfield
Culver City
Clairemont
San Pedro


The H.E.R.P. Database (accessed 10/15) has eleven entries of this species from Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego Counties, including one of mine, though I don't know if everyone who reported them knows how to identify them and can distinguish them from the native threadsnake species. Some of these snakes were found under boards or other objects, and one was found by digging in a yard.

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
None
Taxonomy
Family Typhlopidae Blindsnakes Merrem, 1820
Genus Ramphotyphlops Australasian Blindsnakes Fitzinger, 1843
Species

braminus Brahminy Blindsnake (Daudin, 1803)
Original Description
Ramphotyphlops: Fitzinger, 1843
R. braminus: (Daudin, 1803)

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Ramphotyphlops - Greek "rhamphos" = a curving beak or bill, "typhlops" = blind.
braminus = Latinized form of "Brahmin" a Hindu caste.

Alternate Names
Common Blind Snake
Flowerpot Snake
Island Blind Snake
Hawaiian Blind Snake

Related or Similar California Herps
Southwestern Threadsnake - Rena humilis humilis
Desert Threadsnake - Rena humilis cahuilae

More Information and References
Palmer, Daniel D., and Robert N. Fisher. Herpetological Review Volume 41, Number 4 - December 2010 P. 518.

McKeown, Sean. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians in the Hawaiian Islands. 1996.

Bartlett, Richard D., and Patricia Bartlett. Guide and Reference to the Snakes of Eastern and Central North America (North of Mexico) 2006).

Tennant, Alan. A Field Guide to Snakes of Florida (The Geological Field Guide Series) 1997.

Conant, R., Collins, J. T. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Third Edition. 1998.

Wall, Frank. Snakes of Ceylon. 1921.

Conservation Status

The following status listings come from the Special Animals List and the Endangered and Threatened Animals List which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.


This snake is not included on the Special Animals List, which indicates that there are no significant conservation concerns for it yet in California.

Organization
Status Listing
NatureServe Global Ranking
NatureServe State Ranking
U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) None
California Department of Fish and Wildlife None
Bureau of Land Management None
USDA Forest Service None
IUCN


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