Introduction to the Aesculapian Snake
Snakes, like other members of the Reptilia Class, are some of the oldest creatures on the planet. Among the many species of snake, Aesculapian snakes, or Zamenis longissimus, are some of the most interesting and unique species of all. Found across Europe, from the Mediterranean up to Central Russia, the Aesculapian snake can often be seen coiled around trees, lamps and posts, blending in with its surroundings to remain undetected by most people.
The Aesculapian snake is believed to be derived from the much larger European rat snake, and today is a protected species across most of the countries where it resides. They are especially well known for their inquisitive nature, frequently investigation human presence and readily taking pieces of food from people if offered. With a keen eye for their prey, this species of snake makes for a interesting pet.
Physical Features of the Aesculapian Snake
Aesculapian snakes have several unique physical features that have made them a well described species across Europe. As an adult, these snakes can reach an average size of approximately five feet in length, and up to 177 centimeters at the longest. Their round shaped heads are marked with several black spots and their eyes are set wide to scan their environment.
The Aesculapian snake is well known for its distinctive pattern. Its brownish grey scales are lined with lateral marks that are light yellowish by the head and darkening towards the tail. It is believed that these marks make the Aesculapian snake more noticeable within its environment, and make it easier to find food and catch trophies.
These snakes also possess an enlarged rostral scale, which distinguishes them from other species. It is located between the nostril and eyes and is 30 times larger than other scales found along the snake’s body.
When threatened, these snakes will coil around the threatened end and raise their heads, making themselves look bigger to scare off their attacker. When in danger, these snakes will also drop the end of their bodies to the ground like a whip, hoping to surprise their attacker and escape.
Aesculapian snakes feed primarily on amphibians and small rodents, however they are known to also consume lizards, eggs, invertebrates and even small birds. Aesculapian snakes also have a habit of hiding in burrows and ready to ambush a passing prey. Due to the loss of large prey sources, the Aesculapian snake is slowly evolving to live largely on toads and smaller rodents.
The Aesculapian snake is particularly prone to consuming food that has been killed close at hand, due to its inquisitive nature whenever food is being handled by humans. This, unfortunately, led to them being killed by unsuspecting farmers who believed that these snakes preyed on their livestock.
The Aesculapian snake typically breeds during the spring and summer months and will usually court one another via a ritualistic ‘dance.’ These snakes are typically solitary and do not form any type of lasting partnership once the mating is complete.
The female will typically lay her eggs in manure or decaying material, where the young snakes will hatch after about two months. The female will continue to guard the eggs until they hatch, ensuring that all of them have the best possible chance of survival.
Aesculapian snakes in captivity may lay as many as 20 to 40 eggs; while they are unlikely to survive out in the wild, as they have a relatively short life cycle and predators that can easily detect them.
The Aesculapian snake is a very slow growing species and can live up to 25 years in perfect conditions. They are one of the few snake species that are able to adapt to a wide range of temperatures and so can thrive in many different environments.
Despite originally being imported for the pet trade and for educational purposes, the Aesculapian snake has proven to be a destructive species as it is known to consume reptiles and other native species throughout Europe.
Due to their slow reproduction and importation from the wild for breeding, the Aesculapian snake’s population is in rapid decline. This species is now considered threatened across much of the world and conservation efforts are now in place in order to assist in the preservation of the species.
The Aesculapian snake is a unique and interesting species of snake that has been around since prehistoric times. Not only is it equipped with unique physical characteristics that set it apart from other species, but it infamously chooses to form relationships with humans in order to access food sources.
Despite being slow growing and easily preyed on, the Aesculapian snake is considered a Threatened species and is in danger of becoming extinct. Conservation efforts are still underway in order to promote the survival of this species; while they are not considered to be at a critical level of endangerment, it is nonetheless important to make sure that their population numbers remain strong.
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