Diadophis punctatus punctatus
Although ringneck snakes are also known as ring-necked snakes, this Nashville hiking blog generally uses the term ringneck for the sake of consistency and simplicity.
The average adult size of southern ringneck snakes is six to ten inches, so the specimen (pictured on this page) briefly captured at Percy Warner Park in Nashville was actually large for the species.
The Southern ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus punctatus) is a Colubrid snake species, which basically means the ringneck is classified in the same family as water snakes and garter snakes – some of the most populous, successful snakes in the United States.
Although there is only one official species of Ringneck Snake, there are many subspecies — anywhere from twelve to fourteen subspecies, depending on the source. The Southern ringneck is the most common ringneck snake seen on the hiking trails in and around Nashville, Tennessee (e.g., Radnor Lake, the Warner parks, etc.).
The dorsal coloration of the southern ringneck is a solid olive, dark or bluish gray to black, some say brownish, and broken only by a distinct yellow neck band.
If you’re hiking in or near Nashville and you see a tiny dark snake making its escape across the trail, it is almost certainly a ringneck snake. The Southern ringneck is so small, you are not likely to notice the yellow ring around the snake’s neck unless you’re looking closely.
This nature blogger has seen more than one dead Southern ringneck snake on or beside various hiking trails in Tennessee, probably the victims of being stepped on by hikers who did not even notice the snake.
The Southern ringneck snake is found throughout the southeastern United States from Alabama & Florida up the Eastern U.S. to southern New Jersey.
Ringneck snakes are secretive, nocturnal snakes that are rarely seen during the daylight hours. Most people are unaware that ringneck snakes are actually slightly venomous; however, their non-aggressive nature and tiny, rear-facing fangs pose little to no threat to humans, even when handled.
Ringneck snakes in general are best known for their unique defense posture of curling up their tails exposing their bright ventral surface (the underside or belly) when the small snake is threatened in the wild. The Southern ringneck snake has a bright yellow belly with dotted lines running the length of the snake.
Ringneck snakes are believed to be fairly abundant throughout their ranges in general; however, scientific research is generally lacking for the small snake species. More in-depth investigations are greatly needed. It is the only species within the genus Diadophis, and currently fourteen subspecies are identified, but many herpetologists question the morphologically-based classifications…
Ringneck snake subspecies
Key ringneck snake: D. p. acricus (Paulson, 1966)
Pacific ringneck snake: D. p. amabilis (Baird & Girard, 1853)
Todos Santos Island ringneck snake: D. p. anthonyi (Van Denburgh & Slevin, 1942)
Prairie ringneck snake: D. p. arnyi Kennicott, 1859
Michoacan ringneck snake: D. p. dugesii (Villada, 1875)
Northern ringneck snake: D. p. edwardsii (Merrem, 1820)
San Bernardino ringneck snake: D. p. modestus (Bocourt, 1866)
Northwestern ringneck snake: D. p. occidentalis (Blanchard, 1923)
Coralbelly ringneck snake: D. p. pulchellus (Baird & Girard, 1853)
Southern ringneck snake: D. p. punctatus (Linnaeus, 1766)
Regal ringneck snake: D. p. regalis Baird & Girard, 1853
San Diego ringneck snake: D. p. similis (Blanchard, 1923)
Mississippi ringneck snake: D. p. stictogenys (Cope, 1860)
Monterey ringneck snake: D. p. vandenburghii (Blanchard, 1923)
Resources: Southern ringneck snake
Sunday, April 29, 2012