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Checkered garter snake

The checkered garter snake (Thamnophis marcianus) is a species of garter snake in the subfamily Natricinae of the family Colubridae. The species is endemic to the southwestern United States, Mexico, and Central America.

Checkered garter snake
Thamnophis marcianus.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Thamnophis
T. marcianus
Binomial name
Thamnophis marcianus
(Baird & Girard, 1853)
  • Eutainia marciana
    Baird & Girard, 1853
  • Eutaenia marciana
    Bocourt, 1893
  • Thamnophis marcianus
    Ruthven, 1907


The specific epithet, marcianus, is in honor of American Brigadier General Randolph B. Marcy, who led surveying expeditions to the frontier areas in the mid 19th century.[3]


The checkered garter snake is typically greenish in color, with a distinct, black checkerboard pattern down its back. It is capable of growing to a total length (including tail) of 42 inches (107 cm), but is usually 18 to 24 inches (46 to 61 cm).[4]


The preferred habitats of T. marcianus are desert and grassland, usually close to water.[4]


The diet of T. marcianus includes small frogs, toads, small fish, and earthworms.[citation needed] If kept as a pet, it can be trained on live or freeze-thawed mice, but even so, it is fussy eater and can suddenly start to refuse mice at any point.[citation needed]

Defensive behaviorEdit

T. marcianus will strike and bite if provoked. It will also release a foul-smelling liquid from its cloaca onto attackers.[citation needed]


T. marcianus has been found to have mild venom.[citation needed]


Two subspecies of T. marcianus are recognized as being valid, including the nominotypical subspecies.[2]

Nota bene: A trinomial authority in parentheses indicates that the subspecies was originally described in a genus other than Thamnophis.

Albino checkered garter snake

In captivityEdit

The checkered garter snake is the easiest garter snake to tame. Even a wild-caught one can become tame in a few days if handled carefully.[citation needed] The checkered garter snake is frequently available in the exotic pet trade, and makes a hardy captive animal.[citation needed] It can be trained to accept mice or fish fillets as food.[citation needed] Captive breeding, while not common, is done, and albino variants are being produced.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Chaves G, Lamar W, Porras LW, Solórzano A, Sunyer J, Hammerson GA (2013). "Thamnophis marcianus ". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2013: e.T198521A2529116. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-2.RLTS.T198521A2529116.en. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Thamnophis marcianus". The Reptile Database.
  3. ^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. (Thamnophis marcianus, p. 168).
  4. ^ a b Powell R, Conant R, Collins JT (2016). Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Fourth Edition. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 494 pp., 47 color plates, 207 figures. ISBN 978-0-544-12997-9. (Thamnophis marcianus, p. 428 + Plate 42).

External linksEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Baird SF, Girard CF (1853). Catalogue of North American Reptiles in the Museum of the Smithsonian Institution. Part I.—Serpents. Washington, District of Columbia: Smithsonian Institution. xvi + 172 pp. (Eutainia marciana, new species, pp. 36–37).
  • Behler JL, King FW (1979). The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 743 pp. ISBN 0-394-50824-6. (Thamnophis marcianus, p. 669 + Plate 515).
  • Schmidt KP, Davis DD (1941). Field Book of Snakes of the United States and Canada. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 365 pp. (Thamnophis marcianus, pp. 241–243).
  • Smith HM, Brodie ED Jr (1982). Reptiles of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. New York: Golden Press. 240 pp. ISBN 0-307-13666-3. (Thamnophis marcianus, pp. 150–151).
  • Stebbins RC (2003). A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians, Third Edition. The Peterson Field Guide Series ®. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. xiii + 533 pp. ISBN 978-0-395-98272-3. (Thamnophis marcianus, p. 389 + Plate 50 + Map 159).
  • Stejneger L, Barbour T (1917). A Check List of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. 125 pp. (Thamnophis marcianus, p. 101).
  • Wright AH, Wright AA (1957). Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada. Ithaca and London: Comstock Publishing Associates. 1,105 pp. (in two volumes). (Thamnophis marcianus, pp. 802–806, Figure 231 + Map 58 on p. 763).