Reptiles of the World: Red-blotched Shield Tail

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Uropeltis rubromaculatus

rw-094-Red-blotchedShieldTailThe moist mountain forests of India and Sri Lanka (Ceylon) are occupied by the shield tails, which include some 43 kinds of beautifully marked, burrowing snakes that seem to subsist mainly on earthworms and the grubs of insects.

The dorsal surface of these foot-long snakes is generally dark, but the sides of the body show a series of bright-colored, orange-yellow blotches or triangles. The end of the tail often shows bright rings and spots. The head is pointed and the tail blunt, giving the false impression, at first glance, that the head is the tail and the tail the head. When disturbed on the surface, shield tails tend to coil about bits of grass, twigs, and even fingers. In doing so they hide the head and stretch out the tail, moving it about to attract attention. The tail tip bears a spiny shield that collects particles of mud to protect the snake when a predator tries to bite.