Oophagy by Checkered Keelback

Seshadri KS

September 8, 2022
snake in water eating toad eegs

The checkered keelback (Fowlea piscator) is a common snake across wetlands of Asia. Growing in size of up to 2 feet, these snakes are agile on both land and water. They are non-venomous and can be seen hunting for fish and emerging at the shoreline of lakes and gulp down the fish that they catch. The sharp, recurved fangs help them manage slippery fish. Occasionally, they are thought to consume small frogs too. On the night of August 6th, 2022, my colleagues Vidisha MK, Hugo Desouza, and I went to Dubasipalya Kere near Kengeri, Bangalore in search of frogs. The path leading to the tank bund was water logged and we could see the common toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) had laid eggs in the water. There were at least a 20-30 egg clutches all over. Toad eggs are deposited like a string of pearls, encased in a transparent jelly like film. The eggs hatch in about a week and tadpoles swim away.

The path was also littered with plastic and garbage from the houses nearby. Often, people were walking up and down the path as well. After surveying frogs, we returned along the same path and came across a checkered keelback that measured about a feet and a half in length from tip of snout to the tail tip. As we observed it, the snake moved toward a string of eggs and started eating the eggs. It began by biting into the string of eggs and swallowing them. The act of consuming eggs is called Oophagy (Greek: Oo = Eggs; Phagy = Eat). Upon approaching closer, the snake stopped eating and stayed still for a few minutes. We stopped observing because people started to gather and we did not want them to harm the snake or us! We hopped on to our vehicle and left. Upon returning to the same spot a few days later, the eggs had seemingly hatched and the puddle had begun to dry up. Although both the toad and the snake are common across wetlands including in urban areas, little is known about their ecology. Our observations re-confirm earlier observations that there is no parental care in D. melanostictus.

snake in water eating toad eegs

Checkered Keelback is eating the string of eggs laid by Duttaphrynus melanostictus.

Citations:

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To cite this page: 2022. Oophagy by Checkered Keelback. https://wp.me/pehmXN-nT. Accessed on 2023-03-10.

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