water snake


water snake
1. any of numerous and widely distributed harmless snakes of the genus Natrix, inhabiting areas in or near fresh water.
2. any of various other snakes living in or frequenting water.
3. (cap.) Astron. the constellation Hydrus.
[1595-1605]

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Any of 65–80 snake species of the genera Natrix and Nerodia, as well as similar snakes of the family Colubridae, found worldwide except in South America.

Most species have a stout body with dark blotches or streaks and ridged scales. Some are simliar in appearance to venomous species. They kill fishes and amphibians with a nonvenomous bite. The New World species live in or near water and bear live young; European species are less water-dependent and lay eggs. In defense they inflate the head, strike, and release a foul secretion. Average length is about 3 ft (1 m); some Old World species reach 6 ft (1.8 m).

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 any of about 200 species of semiaquatic snakes (snake) belonging to 38 genera (family Colubridae (colubrid)). Water snakes feed in or near water, and some leave aquatic environments only to bask in the sun or breed. Water snakes are characterized by stout bodies with strongly keeled scales (scale) and triangular heads. They are primarily distributed in the Northern Hemisphere. All New World species are viviparous (viviparity) and thus give birth to live young, whereas most Old World species are oviparous (oviparity) and lay eggs (egg). The principal diet of water snakes is made up of fish and amphibians (amphibian). When handled, water snakes habitually defecate or excrete a foul-smelling substance from their anal scent glands. Although they are nonvenomous, they are generally ill-tempered and bite freely.

      In North America the most abundant genus is Nerodia, which is made up of 11 species that range from southern Canada south through the eastern United States and eastern Mexico. The northern water snake (N. sipedon), the most common species, inhabits the eastern half of the United States, southern Ontario, and southern Quebec. It is a moderately large snake that can reach lengths of 1 to 1.4 metres (3 to 4.5 feet). The body is coloured tan to gray and marked by large dark brown blotches. N. sipedon is active during the day in the fall and spring and nocturnal during the summer. It feeds principally on fish. Females give birth to 4–100 young.

      The salt marsh snake (N. clarkii) lives in the brackish water habitats of the southeastern United States, and adults typically grow to 0.3–0.7 metre (1–2 feet) long. There are three morphologically distinct subspecies: the salt marsh snake (N. clarkii clarkii) of the Gulf Coast region is characterized by light stripes along the full length of the body; the mangrove salt marsh snake (N. clarkii compressicauda) is variable in colour and has striping over part of its length; and the Atlantic salt marsh snake (N. clarkii taeniata) possesses dark stripes that break up into rows of dark spots near the tail. All species hide among the marsh grasses, where they ambush fish and crustaceans (crustacean). Females give birth to 2–14 young.

      Nerodia is often mistaken for the venomous cottonmouth water moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorus) because they have a similar shape and coloration. When molested, Nerodia will inflate its body, spread its jaws to form a larger, more triangular-shaped head, hiss loudly, and strike savagely. When swimming, only the head of Nerodia will rise above the surface of the water, whereas the anterior half of the water moccasin's body will float on the surface.

 Natrix, the genus of Eurasian water snakes, is made up of four species. The common grass snake (N. natrix), which is the most terrestrial of the water snakes, inhabits all of Europe and western Asia. It is olive-coloured, green, or gray, with a yellow or white collar on the neck. Adults range in length from 0.6 to 1 metre (2 to 3 feet); however, some may reach 2 metres (about 6.5 feet) in length. N. natrix is diurnal and frequents damp places near water. It preys mainly upon frogs (frog) and toads (toad) but will occasionally eat salamanders (salamander), tadpoles (tadpole), or fish. Females lay 8–40 eggs.

      The five species of Asiatic water snakes, Sinonatrix, which may be closely related to Nerodia, are more aquatic than Natrix and are found throughout Southeast Asia, southern China, and parts of Indonesia. Sinonatrix typically grows to a length of about 1 metre (3 feet) and principally feeds upon fish. S. annularis, the only live-bearing water snake in the Old World, produces 4–13 young.

      Other Asian and Indonesian genera include Amphiesma, with about 40 species; Rhabdophis, with about 20 species; Tropidonophis, with about 20 species; and Xenochrophis, with 10 species. The checkered keelback (X. piscator), one of the more common species in southern Asia, grows to 1.1 metres (3.5 feet), preys upon fish and mice (mouse), and lays 17–100 eggs. In addition, Opisthotropis, an unusual genus made up of 20 species, lives beneath stones in mountain streams in China and Southeast Asia; it is nocturnal and feeds upon fish, adult frogs, tadpoles, and invertebrates. Females of this genus lay one to six eggs.

Van Wallach
 

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Water snake — Snake Snake, n. [AS. snaca; akin to LG. snake, schnake, Icel. sn[=a]kr, sn?kr, Dan. snog, Sw. snok; of uncertain origin.] (Zo[ o]l.) Any species of the order Ophidia; an ophidian; a serpent, whether harmless or venomous. See {Ophidia}, and… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • water snake — Water moccasin Wa ter moc ca*sin (Zo[ o]l.) A venomous North American snake ({Ancistrodon piscivorus}) allied to the rattlesnake but destitute of a rattle. It lives in or about pools and ponds, and feeds largely of fishes. Called also {water… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Water snake — Wa ter snake (Zo[ o]l.) (a) A common North American colubrine snake ({Tropidonotus sipedon}) which lives chiefly in the water. (b) Any species of snakes of the family {Homalopsid[ae]}, all of which are aquatic in their habits. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • water snake — n. any of numerous saltwater or freshwater snakes; esp., any of a widely distributed genus (Natrix) of thick bodied, nonpoisonous, freshwater colubrid snakes that feed chiefly on fish and amphibians …   English World dictionary

  • water snake — noun any of various mostly harmless snakes that live in or near water • Hypernyms: ↑colubrid snake, ↑colubrid • Hyponyms: ↑common water snake, ↑banded water snake, ↑Natrix sipedon, ↑Nerodia sipedon, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • Water snake — Different snakes are called water snakes. Most are colubrids. Examples include:* Helicops species, including: ** Helicops angulatus * Liophis species, including: ** Liophis cobellus ** Liophis reginae * Nerodia species, including: ** Nerodia… …   Wikipedia

  • water snake — snake which lives in water, hydra …   English contemporary dictionary

  • water snake — wa′ter snake n. 1) ram any of numerous and widely distributed harmless snakes of the genus Natrix, inhabiting areas in or near fresh water 2) ram any of various other snakes living in or frequenting water …   From formal English to slang

  • water snake — /ˈwɔtə sneɪk/ (say wawtuh snayk) noun 1. any of the harmless colubrine snakes of the genus Natrix, found in or near fresh water. 2. any of various other snakes living in or frequenting water …   Australian English dictionary

  • water snake — noun Date: circa 1601 any of various snakes (especially genus Nerodia formerly included in the genus Natrix) that frequent or inhabit freshwaters and feed largely on aquatic animals …   New Collegiate Dictionary


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