Western Mud Snake
Scientific name: Farancia abacura reinwardtii (SCHLEGEL 1837)
* Currently accepted name
* scientific names used through time
- Helicops abacurus – HOLBROOK 1836
- Farancia drummondii – GRAY 1842
- Farancia abacurus – BAIRD & GIRARD 1853
- Calopisma abacurum – DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL 1854
- Homolopsis crassa – BLYTH 1854 (fide BAUER & DAS 1999)
- Farancia abacura – SMITH 1938
- Farancia abacura reinwardti – CONANT 1958
- Farancia abacura reinwardtii – CONANT & COLLINS 1992
Average adult size is 36-52 inches (91.4-132 cm), record is 74 inches (187.9 cm). Adults are large and thick bodied. The body is glossy black (iridescent blue in the sunlight) with the ends of 52 or fewer red to pink bars from the belly extending onto its sides. The belly is a red and black checkerboard pattern. The neck is thick and indistinct. The tail tip ends in a pointed, horny scale. The scales are mostly smooth, yet there are some keeled scales above the cloaca. There are 19 dorsal scale rows at midbody. The iris is red and the pupil is round. Juveniles are similar in appearance to adults, but the red to pink bars from the belly extend higher onto their sides.
A. Front (face) view of head
B. Side view of head
C. Top view of the head
D. Smooth scales
Range: In Florida, this snakes occurs only as an intergrade form in the extreme western panhandle. Here, these snakes possess intermediate characters of both Eastern and Western Mud Snakes. Outside of Florida, it occurs west to eastern Texas and central Arkansas, north to extreme southern Illinois and Indiana, and east to western Georgia.
Habitat: It commonly occurs in almost any freshwater habitat, including cypress swamps, drainage ditches, marshes, rivers, and lakes. It is especially fond of waters choked with aquatic vegetation and muddy bottoms and banks, where it finds its favorite prey, the Amphiuma (Amphiumaspp.).
Comparison with other species: Rainbow Snakes (Farancia erytrogramma) and Swamp Snakes (Seminatrix pygaea) lack the Mud Snake's reddish pink lateral trianglular pattern as well as its checkerboard belly pattern. Southern Water Snakes (Nerodia fasciata) have complete (and not reddish pink) dorsal crossbands and a distinct stripe on the sides of their faces.