Pituophis catenifer is a species of nonvenomous colubrid snake endemic to North America. Nine subspecies are currently recognized, including the nominotypical subspecies, Pituophis catenifer catenifer, described here.[6] This snake is often mistaken for the prairie rattlesnake, but can be easily distinguished from a rattlesnake by the lack of black and white banding on its tail and by the shape of its head, which is narrower than a rattlesnake's.

Pacific gopher snake
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Pituophis
P. catenifer
Binomial name
Pituophis catenifer
(Blainville, 1835)
Common name: Pacific gopher snake, coast gopher snake, western gopher snake,[5] more.

Etymology edit

The specific name, catenifer, is Latin for "chain-bearing", referring to the dorsal color pattern.

Description edit

Adults are 36-84 in (91–213 cm) in length.[5] Dorsally, they are yellowish or pale brown, with a series of large, dark brown or black blotches, and smaller, dark spots on the sides. Ventrally, they are yellowish, either uniform or with brown markings.[2] They also come in several morphs depending on the subspecies.[citation needed]

Behavior edit

Sonoran gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer affinis), Doña Ana County, New Mexico (August 17, 2010)

The gopher snake has a unique defensive mechanism, in which it puffs up its body and curls itself into the classic strike pose of a rattlesnake. However, rather than delivering an open-mouthed strike, the gopher snake often strikes with a closed mouth, using its blunt nose to "warn off" possible predators. Additionally, gopher snakes vibrate their tails in a manner similar to rattlesnakes. One paper found that gopher snakes on islands lacking rattlesnakes vibrate their tails for shorter amounts of time than gopher snakes in mainland California, which is home to numerous rattlesnake species.[7] This suggests that gopher snake tail vibration may in fact be rattlesnake mimicry since the behavior appears to be breaking down in areas without rattlesnakes, perhaps because predators on these islands have no reason to evolve to avoid tail-vibrating snakes (rattlesnakes are venomous, gopher snakes are not).

Life expectancy edit

Wild gopher snakes typically live 12 to 15 years, but the oldest captive recorded lived over 33 years.[8]

Common names edit

Common names for this species, or its several subspecies, are: Pacific gopher snake, Henry snake, coast gopher snake, bullsnake, Churchill's bullsnake, Oregon bullsnake, Pacific pine snake, western bullsnake, western gopher snake, Sonoran gopher snake, western pine snake, great basin gopher snake, blow snake, and yellow gopher snake.[5]

Subspecies edit

As of 2022, there is largely agreement on the recognition of six subspecies occurring in Canada, USA, and mainland Mexico. However, there is not agreement among taxonomist on status of populations from Baja California and adjacent islands. The Cape gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer vertebralis) and Central Baja California gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer bimaris) are recognized by some as single species with no subspecies Pituophis vertebralis, or as a species with two subspecies Pituophis v. vertebralis and P. v. bimaris by others. Other subspecies including the Coronado Island gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer coronalis) and San Martin Island gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer fulginatus) are of questionable validity.[4][9]

Standardized English name, subspecies, and author[10][11][12][13] Geographic range
Sonoran gophersnake

P. c. affinis Hallowell, 1852

Southwest USA including extreme southeast California, Arizona, New Mexico, Trans-Pecos Texas, and northwest Mexico including extreme northeast Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, northwest Nuevo León, Sinaloa, eastern Durango, north Zacatecas, and extreme west San Luis Potosi (Chihuahuan Desert and Sonora Desert).[9][14]
San Diego gophersnake

P. c. annectens Baird & Girard, 1853

Southwest California and northwest Baja California [9]
Pacific gophersnake

P. c. catenifer (Blainville, 1835)

The United States, from Oregon west of the Cascade Range, south into California, west of the Sierra Nevada to northern Santa Barbara County and the Tehachapi Mountains.[5]
Great Basin gophersnake

P. c. deserticola Stejneger, 1893

South-central British Columbia, Canada, east Washington, east Oregon, southwest Idaho, southwest Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, west Colorado, parts of southeast California, northern Arizona and extreme northwest New Mexico (Great Basin and Mojave Desert) [9]
San Martin Island gophersnake

P. c. fulginatus Klauber, 1946

San Martin Island, Baja California
Santa Cruz Island gophersnake

P. c. pumilis Klauber, 1946

Santa Cruz Island, Santa Rosa Island, and San Miguel Island, California[9]

P. c. sayi (Schlegel, 1837)

Southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada, central USA including east Colorado, Illinois, extreme northwest Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, east New Mexico, southwest North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, southwest Wisconsin, east Wyoming, and northern Mexico including northeast Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, extreme southeast San Luis Potosi, and extreme northern Veracruz (Great Plains and Midwestern United States).[9]

Gallery edit

References edit

  1. ^ Hammerson, G.A. (2007). "Pituophis catenifer". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2007: e.T63869A12723241. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2007.RLTS.T63869A12723241.en. Retrieved 20 March 2024.
  2. ^ a b Boulenger GA. 1894. Catalogue of the Snakes in the British Museum (Natural History). Volume II., Containing the Conclusion of the Colubridæ Aglyphæ. Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History). (Taylor and Francis, Printers.) London. xi + 382 pp. + Plates I.- XX. ("Coluber catenifer", pp. 67-68.)
  3. ^ Stejneger L, Barbour T. 1917. A Check List of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. Harvard University Press. Cambridge Massachusetts. 125 pp. (Pituophis catenifer, pp. 85-86.)
  4. ^ a b The Reptiles Database, www.reptile-database.org.: Pituophis catenifer (BLAINVILLE, 1835) (accessed May 17, 2022)
  5. ^ a b c d Wright AH, Wright AA. 1957. Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada. 2 volumes. Comstock Publishing Associates. (7th printing, 1985). 1,105 pp. ISBN 0-8014-0463-0. (Pituophis catenifer, pp. 588-609, Figures 171.-175., Map 46.)
  6. ^ "Pituophis catenifer". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 4 February 2009.
  7. ^ Allf, Bradley C., Sparkman, Amanda M., Pfennig, David W. "Microevolutionary change in mimicry? Potential erosion of rattling behaviour among nonvenomous snakes on islands lacking rattlesnakes" Ethology Ecology & Evolution (2020). DOI: 10.1080/03949370.2020.1837962
  8. ^ Hiatt, S. "The Pituophis Page". Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Stebbins, RobertC. and Samuel M. McGinnis. 2018. Peterson Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians, 4th ed. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publidhing Co. New York, N.Y. xi, 560 pp. (pages 400-402) ISBN 9781328715500
  10. ^ Conant, Cagle, Goin, Lowe, Neill, Netting, Schmidt, Shaw, Stebbins, and Bogert. 1956. Common names for North American amphibians and reptiles. Copeia 1956: 172–185. (page 183)
  11. ^ Crother, B. I. (ed.). 2017. Scientific and Standard English Names of Amphibians and Reptiles of North America North of Mexico, with Comments Regarding Confidence in Our Understanding. SSAR Herpetological Circular 43, 1–102 pp. [see page 74] ISBN 978-1-946681-00-3
  12. ^ Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles: Checklist of the Standard English Names of Amphibians & Reptiles (accessed May 15, 2022)
  13. ^ The Reptile Database: Pituophis catenifer (BLAINVILLE, 1835). (accessed May 15, 2022) http://reptile
  14. ^ Beat Schätti, Peter Heimes, Frank Tillack, Christoph Kucharzewski, and Jonatan Torres-Pérez Coeto. 2020. Pituophis deppei (Duméril, Bibron & Duméril, 1854) or a reassessment of Mexican bullsnakes (Reptilia: Squamata: Colubridae). Vertebrate Zoology 70 (4): 483 – 545 (page 508)

Further reading edit

  • Blainville, H.D. 1835. Description de quelques espèces de reptiles de la Californie précédée de l'analyse d'un système général d'herpétologie et d'amphibiologie. Nouvelles Annales du Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle 4: 233-296. (Coluber catenifer, pp. 290–291 + Plate XXVI., Figures 2, 2A, 2B.)

External links edit

  Data related to Pituophis catenifer at Wikispecies