Snakes are incredible beings, their skeleton is made up of flexible spines and dozens of pairs of ribs. Their skin is covered with scales and is generally dry to the touch. Most snakes have only one lung, which is exceptionally long and extends throughout the entire body. Some snakes look and feel very similar to dragons. But then, are snakes related to dragons?
Everything You Need to Know About the Dragon Snake
In this article, we will focus on these snakes that look like dragons. The primary specificity that gives these snakes a dragon-like appearance are the keeled scales. Different from the smooth scales that we generally recognize, these keeled scales are curved and end with a ridge that becomes protruding. The Atheris is one of those snake species to have this kind of scales imitating that of dragons. But let’s start with our main interest, the Dragon Snake, called Xenodermus Javanicus, and named “Dragonsnake” in English. ?
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The Xenodermus Javanicus
One of the strangest snakes in the world is the Xenodermus Javanicus, also called Javan Tubercle snake, Javan mudsnake, Rough-backed litter snake, or Dragon Snake. Although it does not spit fire, its anatomy is strange enough to evoke images of mythical creatures such as dragons. The first dragon snake was described in 1836 by the Danish zoologist Johannes T. Reinhardt. He named it Xenodermus, from the Greek “foreign skin”, because of its peculiar scales, of which Reinhardt describes three types.
Xenodermus Javanicus is a snake, aglyph, of the Xenodermatidae family which currently includes 5 genera for 17 species. It is, as for him, monospecific. Its population extends from the extreme south of Myanmar, Thailand to Indonesia (Sumatra, Borneo, Java). Its small size (between 60 and 70 cm) and its discretion make it a difficult animal to observe. In Thailand, the rare specimens caught were in the south, on the border with Malaysia. It is present at an altitude ranging from 500 to 1300 m, with a predilection around 1100 m above sea level. It is on the island of Java that it is most present.
Physical Characteristics of the Xenodermus Javanicus
The head of the snake Xenodermus Javanicus is very distinct from the rest of its body. It is covered with small granular scales with the exception of the nasal/internasal scales, which are large and voluminous. Its eyes, of average size, have a vertical pupil. The body is also covered with more or less regular scales. Three rows of large protruding scales, more likely resembling a ridge, run along the spine, as well as two other rows placed symmetrically on either side of these first three rows. In contrast to the small irregular dorsal scales, those covering the flanks are thin and regular. The exact function of the shape of the nasal scales as well as those of the ridge along the body are not yet known.
The tail represents nearly a third of the total length. The general color of the animal is taupe gray, the ventral scales are grayish white edged with taupe gray. Dragon snake females are larger than males and have a shorter tail. They have between 176 and 186 ventral scales compared to 171 to 177 for males, and only 133 to 150 subcaudal scales compared to 147 to 165 for males. Kopstein (1938) specifies that in Java, females Xenodermus javanicus are more numerous than males, the ratio would be about 44% males against 56% females.
Diet and Nutrition of the Xenodermus Javanicus
Fearful, the Xenodermus Javanicus lives mainly, during the day, hidden in burrows and galleries dug a few centimeters under the soft ground. It is semi-digging and semi-aquatic. It is at nightfall that it ventures outside its hiding place in search of its favorite prey, frogs. It is an animal that likes the proximity of calm and shallow waters. It can be found in forests as well as in flooded fields and especially in rice fields where its prey abounds.
The Dragon Snake is not an aggressive animal. When it is seized, it just stiffens and seems to freeze. Once rested on the ground, it remains a few moments motionless, to ensure that any danger has passed. Then it disappears slowly and silently under the dead leaves in the humus where it finds refuge in the water. Oviparous, it is during the rainy season, from October to February, that mating and laying of 2 to 4 eggs takes place. The eggs are small, measuring 23 to 28 mm by 9 to 11 mm. After 61 to 65 days of incubation, the newborns, about 20 centimeters in size, are born. ?
Xenodermus Javanicus in Captivity
In his book “The Snakes of Thailand and Their Husbandry” (1991), Merel J. Cox gives some essential advice for the maintenance, under good conditions, of Xenodermus javanicus in captivity. The substrate must be loose and have many hiding places, a large shallow pool should be available, some hiding places should also be provided. Make sure to inquire well, if you wish to adopt the Dragon Snake.
The terrarium will be heated to a maximum of 28-30°. For an optimized temperature, it should be 25-26° at the coldest and 30° at the warmest. Only a large enough terrarium will be able to offer such a thermal gradient. In spite of everything, the Xenodermus remains very difficult to maintain in captivity. For food, M. J. Cox confirms his predilection for frogs, but also specifies that the Dragon Snake could possibly accept some small fish.
A Snake With Dragon Scales
After the above named Dragon Snake, let’s extend our field of analysis to other snakes that look like dragons. There are about 3500 different species of snakes recorded in the world and they are present everywhere on the globe except Antarctica.
As we have seen their anatomy is very impressive, their flexible jaws allow them to eat prey larger than their head. Notably the Anaconda which can swallow and digest large prey such as cheetahs and caimans. However, what interests us in this article is the physical aspect of snakes. Snake and Dragon, are they related? In fact, here is another reptile that could be described as the Dragon Snake, and which reminds us of the appearance of the mythical creature. ?
The Atheris Hispida
The Atheris Hispida has scales with a thorny shape, it looks like the fictitious dragons imagined by man. Its scientific name is Atheris, and it is a kind of venomous viper known as “Bush Viper“. They are only found in tropical sub-Saharan Africa. These snakes live in Congo, Uganda. They are rarely seen in the wild because they live in areas far from human settlements. For the same reason, the exact number of spiny vipers still present in the wild is unknown.
Reaching a length of about 58 to 73 cm, they are not the largest snakes in the world, and do not need to be to do damage. Atheris Hispida are predators, they ambush. They live in trees and spend most of their time in the tallest branches to spot unsuspected prey. Nocturnal creatures, they know how to find their meals easily. They tend to avoid humans, and humans generally do not enter their natural habitat. Why are you asking me? Well, these snakes are very venomous, and due to their rarity, it has been impossible to find or create an antidote for their venom.
Usually this dragon-like snake is found in a variety of colors that have a similarity to nature. Such as green, olive green, bluish colors or some type of brownish color. This snake usually appears in shades of green, brown, red and blue, with variations of all shades being observed in some species. Just looking at these creatures, I immediately think of dragons, don’t you? They really are amazing snakes, and even if you don’t like snakes, admit that they are beautiful and magical beings. Let’s hope that they will stay away from humans for a few more centuries. A real Dragon Snake!
This article on the Dragon Snake (Xenodermus Javanicus) is coming to an end, there are of course other dragon-like reptiles such as the Komodo Monster. Before you fly away to other horizons, have a look at our store dedicated to dragons, you will find interesting items such as our collection of rings below.
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