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Reptiles of Thailand

Species of Thailand

Buff striped keelback

Thai: งูลายสาบดอกหญ้า, ngu lai saap dok ya

Binomial name: Amphiesma stolatum, Carolus Linnaeus, 1758

The buff striped keelback (Amphiesma stolatum) is a species of nonvenomous colubrid snake found across Asia. It is a typically nonaggressive snake that feeds on frogs and toads. It belongs to the subfamily Natricinae, and is closely related to water snakes and grass snakes. It resembles an Asian version of the American garter snake. It is quite a common snake but is rarely seen.

Anatomy and morphology

A small, slender snake, the buff striped keelback is generally olive-brown to gray in colour. The head and the body are of the same colour.

The body of the buff striped keelback is short, and it has a long slender tail which is almost a quarter of its length. Two yellow stripes along the length and to the sides of the spine are the distinctive feature of this snake. These stripes are diffuse at the head and are especially bright on the second half of its body.

The keelback has irregular blackish crossbars on the body. Near the head the crossbars are prominent, whereas on the second half of the snake they become diffuse.

The sides of the head are yellow, and the head tapers to form a distinctive neck. The nape is red during the breeding season. The chin and throats are white or sometimes orange. There are black vertical markings in front of and behind the large eyes. The eyes have large round pupils with golden flecks on the iris. The forked tongue is black.

The underside is pale cream and has small black spots scattered along both the margins.

It has keeled scales on the dorsal surface of the body.


There are two distinct colour varieties – a typical variety, found everywhere, with grayish-blue interscale colour. The second variety, erythrostictus, is common mainly in coastal areas and has bright vermillion interscale colour. The interscale colours become visible only when the snake puffs itself up when agitated.

Identifying characteristics
  • The nasal shield does not touch the second supralabial (upper lip shield).
  • The rostral touches a total of 6 shields. These are two inter-nasals, two nasals and the first supralabial on each side.
  • Presence of single temporal shield.
  • Nineteen rows of costals which are strongly keeled except for the outer row which is perfectly smooth.
  • Presence of stripes.
  • Ventrals 125-161.
  • Anal divided.
  • Subcaudals 50-85.

The Buff Striped keelback is usually 40 to 50 cm (about 16 to 20 inches) in total length. The maximum length recorded is 90 cm frac=8. Females are consistently longer than the males which only rarely reach 620 mm in length.


The buff striped keelback is found throughout South and Southeast Asia. Its range extends from Pakistan (Sindh) to Sri Lanka, Philippines, India (including the Andaman Islands), Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia (Borneo, Sabah), Taiwan and China (Hainan, Hong Kong, Fujian, Jiangxi).

In India, the snake is found up to an altitude of 2, 000 m.

Conservation status

The buff striped keelback is common throughout its range, and is not of international conservation concern.


This terrestrial, diurnal snake inhabits well-watered lowland plains and hills

Feeding ecology

The primary diet of adult A. stolatum is small amphibians such as frogs and toads, but they are also known to consume fish, earthworms and geckos.

Life history

Keelbacks are oviparous. Mating is thought to take place during the aestivation period. Gravid females have been found from April to August and eggs are laid in underground holes from May to September. The snake lays a clutch of 5 to 10 pure white eggs. Females remain with eggs till they hatch. The young snakes are 13 to 17 cm at birth and eat small frogs, tadpoles, fish, earthworms and insects.


The buff striped keelback is diurnal, and although mostly seen on land, it can readily take to water. It has long rear teeth for catching frogs and toads.

The buff striped keelback is nonvenomous and totally harmless. When alarmed, it inflates its body causing the bright interscale colours to be exposed. Sometimes, the snake flattens and narrows its head to form a hood. This behaviour sometimes causes the species to be mistaken by laypersons for a baby cobra.

The snake aestivates during hot weather and appears at the end of summer. It is abundant during the rains. In north India, the striped keelback hibernates 25 to 45 cm (about 10 to 18 inches) under the ground in soil, amongst grass roots.

Local names

  • Assamese – Bamuni saap.
  • Odia – Halahalia saapa, Mati biradi Saapa(Angul){Jajpur}.
  • Bengali – Hele sanp.
  • Marathi – Naneti.
  • Telugu – Wannapam.
  • Tamil – Nirkatan pambu.
  • Tulu – Pageley.
  • Sinhala – Aharakukka.

This article uses material from Wikipedia released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike Licence 3.0. Eventual photos shown in this page may or may not be from Wikipedia, please see the license details for photos in photo by-lines.

Scientific classification

Amphiesma stolatum

Common names

  • German:
    • Gelbhalswassernatter
    • Gestreifte Wassernatter
    • Asiatische Streifennatter
    • Gelbband-Wassernatter
  • English:
    • Buff-striped keelback
    • White-striped keelback
  • Thai: งูลายสาบดอกหญ้า, ngu lai saap dok ya


  • Amphiesma stolatus, Peng Guo et al. (2014)
  • Amphiesma stolatum, Van Stanley Bartholomew Wallach et al. (2014)
  • Amphiesma stolata, Janzen et al. (2007)
  • Amphiesma stolata, R.C. Sharma (2004)
  • Amphiesma stolata chinesis, Tanya Chan-Ard et al. (1999)
  • Amphiesma stolata, Merel J. Cox et al. (1998)
  • Amphiesma stolatum, Patrick David, Gernot Vogel & Olivier S.G. Pauwels (1998)
  • Amphiesma stolata, Indraneil Das (1996)
  • Natrix stolata, Malcolm Arthur Smith (1943)
  • Natrix stolata chinensis, R. Mell (1930)
  • Rhabdophis stolatus, Frank Wall (1921)
  • Amphiesma stolata, Frank Wall (1921)
  • Tropidonotus stolatus, Frank Wall (1908)
  • Natrix stolata, Leonhard Hess Stejneger (1907)
  • Tropidonotus stolatus, George Albert Boulenger (1893)
  • Tropidonotus stolatus, George Albert Boulenger (1890)
  • Tropidonotus stolatus, Ferdinand Stoliczka (1870)
  • Tropidonotus ruficeps, Wilhelm Karl Hartwich Peters (1869)
  • Tropidonotus stolatus, Albert Charles Lewis Günther (1864)
  • Amphiesma stolatum, André Marie Constant Duméril, Gabriel Bibron & Auguste Duméril (1854)
  • Tropidonotus stolbatus [sic], Edward Frederick Kelaart (1854)
  • Tropidonotus stolatus, Friedrich Boie (1827)
  • Natrix stolatus, Blasius Merrem (1820)
  • Elaps bilineatus, Johann Gottlob Theaenus Schneider (1801)
  • Coluber stolatus, Carolus Linnaeus (1758)
Distribution map of Buff striped keelback, Amphiesma stolatum in Thailand
  • Ban Bueng District, Chonburi
  • Chae Hom District, Lampang
  • Chom Bueng District, Ratchaburi
  • Doi Saket District, Chiang Mai
  • Doi Suthep-Pui National Park
  • Dok Khamtai District, Phayao
  • Hang Dong District, Chiang Mai
  • Hua Hin District, Prachuap Khiri Khan
  • Kaeng Krachan District, Phetchaburi
  • Kaeng Krachan National Park
  • Kui Buri National Park
  • Li District, Lamphun
  • Mae On District, Chiang Mai
  • Mae Rim District, Chiang Mai
  • Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai
  • Mueang Lamphun District, Lamphun
  • Mueang Phichit District, Phichit
  • Na Kae District, Nakhon Phanom
  • Nam Nao National Park
  • Sakaerat Environmental Research Station
  • San Kamphaeng District, Chiang Mai

Range map of Amphiesma stolatum in Thailand

Important note; our range maps are based on limited data we have collected. The data is not necessarily accurate or complete.

Special thanks to Ton Smits, Parinya Pawangkhanant, Ian Dugdale and many others for their contribution for range data.

It is free to use this map on various media. See the creative common license terms by clicking "CC" icon below the map. But remember, again; the map may not be accurate or complete.

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