Brown Blunt-headed Vine Snake

January 19, 2011 | Armonia Nature Preserve, Limon Province, Costa Rica

As dusk arrived, I spotted this small vine snake, Imantodes cenchoa, descending a large tree. This species is chiefly arboreal, so seeing one near the ground was sheer luck.

A small snake, the head shown here is only 5mm wide. Overall I estimated this one to be less than a meter long, although they can grow to a bit more than that.

The head is much wider than the body. Thin as it may be, it can swallow prey ten times the width of its body. Nocturnal, these snakes hunt sleeping lizards, particularly anoles.

Head much wider than body

Also notable in this and related species are the scales along the middle of the back. These scales are many times wider than scales in adjacent rows. There’s a similar species, Imantodes gemmistratus, but its mid-dorsal scales aren’t quite as wide.

Wider mid-dorsal scales

With highly adapted skeletal and muscular structure, they have the ability to extend out up to half of their body. As shown here, they can reach out to nearby perches.

Body held aloft

Though possessing rear fangs with a weak venom, they rely on camouflage for defense. This one froze in place as soon as it became aware of my presence.


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5 Responses to Brown Blunt-headed Vine Snake

  1. A. Jaszlics says:

    This is an awesome find! I love that last photo — it’s such a characteristic pose for these guys…

    • Troy Bartlett says:

      It was even more extended than shown here, but I couldn’t get a good shot showing that.

  2. These are hecka spectacular photographs!

    • Troy Bartlett says:

      Highly cropped, all of them. My flash ran out of juice before I got all the shots I wanted. I walked off to scrounge up some fresh batteries from the car, but when I returned it had disappeared.

  3. Patrick Coin says:

    I believe I saw one on the ground at La Selva (OTS station), also at night. Got slides somewhere–maybe I’ll scan them some day!

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