Creature Spotlight: The Tiger Keelback Snake

By: Ellen Sever

So, chances are, if you’re here checking out the Automatic Reptile Feeder, you probably have a reptile to feed or at least an interest in reptiles (or maybe not and you just stumbled across us in which case, hello and welcome). Because we’re reptile lovers over here at Verge Pets, the idea came to me that it could be fun to spotlight a reptile every couple of weeks. But instead of focusing on the common ones like bearded dragons or corn snakes, I thought it would be cool to research some weird or wacky ones many people don’t even know of. Now let me tell you, there are a LOT of cool reptiles out there and doing this research was just as fun for me as I hope it will be for you to read it. A quick disclaimer before I jump in though, this reptile is not to be kept as a pet as it is both venomous and poisonous and simply not bred for captivity, so all around not a good idea. Now without further ado, I introduce to you: The Tiger Keelback Snake.

The tiger keelback snake, or floral snake as it is known in Korea,  is found throughout various parts of East and Southeast Asia, especially islands like Japan. It has bright orange and/or yellow colorations on its body interspersed with black blocks or stripes, making it resemble a tiger. Its unique coloring isn’t what makes this snake so cool, however. What makes them cool is what they eat and what they do with it. The primary diet of the tiger keelback is frogs and toads, poisonous ones at that. This snake has an immunity to the poison of their prey and has found a way to use it to their advantage. They (are you ready for this?) absorb the poison into special glands on their necks and use it as a defense mechanism against predators! So if a potential predator approaches, they begin to secrete the poison in preparation for the animal to bite them. If the predator does, it will get a mouthful of poison which leads to some nasty breathing and heart complications. How cool is that? They simply stole the defense of their prey to use for themselves.

Due to its strong defense mechanism, the tiger keelback does not strike often. People thought this snake to be harmless for many years because of this. That was until people did get bitten and it turned out to be fatal (yikes). So yeah, they are very venomous to humans as well, not to mention highly poisonous if consumed. Therefore, if you are from or find yourself in East or Southeast Asia and stumble across a tiger keelback, it would be best to keep your distance.

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So there you have it!  I was blown away when I read about this snake. The ways in which some animals adapt to survive amazes me, and this snake was no exception. Going after an animal whose defense mechanism is typically strong enough to keep it protected, and not only making it your prey but also stealing its strong defense for yourself? I mean come on, that’s pretty hard-core.