Caspian Whipsnake, a non-venomous with aggressive nature

September 18, 2016 - 20:35

The Caspian Whipsnake (Dolichophis caspius, sometimes also Coluber caspius) who called Mar-e Atashi or Mar-e Shalaqi-ye Khazar is a member of Colubridae family.

By Farnaz Heidari

The Caspian Whipsnake (Dolichophis caspius, sometimes also Coluber caspius) who called Mar-e Atashi or Mar-e Shalaqi-ye Khazar is a member of Colubridae family.

“Fire Snake” is a challenge term often heralded by some informal references, this term refers to three different species. Dr. Mahmoud Latifi in the book of “Iran Snakes” named (Coluber jugularia erythrogaster), (Coluber jugularis schmidti) and (Coluber caspius) as Fire snakes. The genus Dolichophis has been revived by Nagy et al. (2004) to include three closely related eastern Mediterranean whipsnakes (caspicus, jugularis, schmidti).

As mentioned before, these species assigned the partition of Coluber but according to Nagy et al. the genus changed to Dolichophis. The taxonomy of the different taxa is still un-completely assessed but these three snakes now called Mar-e Shalaqi in a number of areas, common Farsi language and listed on Dolichophis genus.

Human-induced wildlife threats expected to continue through the 21st. Iran fauna needs expertise in a number of areas, including reptile’s conservation. So it is quite necessary to fund for these kinds of researches even it may be the new normal. If you are eager to see this valuable species of Iran fauna, then visit terrarium of reptiles of zoos such as Tehran Zoo.

Visual characteristics

Caspian whip snake has broad snout which is more or less elongate; rostral slightly longer than wide; inter-nasals equal or slightly shorter than pre-frontals; frontal slightly wider than supraocular and shorter than parietals; dorsally olive, grey, yellow, orange, brown, red or dark red with pale area in middle of each scale; venter yellow.

191-210 ventral scales with indistinct lateral sides; 90-113 sub- caudal scales. In general the head of Caspian whip snake is elongated, separated by the neck, the snout is round; eyes are relatively large with a round pupil and a well differentiated canthus. Maxillary teeth are not equal in length, the ones in the posterior part being longer. The tail is long and thin. The rostral is distinct, the frontal can be equal or shorter than the parietals. The nostril is situated between two plates, the preocular scale is high and it is situated on the small sub-ocular, the temporal scales can be 2+2 or 2, 8 supralabials and two pairs of inframaxillary scales. Dorsal scales are smooth with 19 transversal rows, rarely 17 or 21. It has 160-211 ventral plates, the anal is divided and it also has 87-131 pairs of subcaudal scales


This species occurs in Europe, Caucasus, East of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Iran. This is Endemic in Balkans north to Hungary, S. Ukraine to S. Russia, W. Anatolia, N. Azerbaijan and extreme W. Kazakhstan. The chorotype is Mediterranean (NE Mediterranean) plus Turanian plus Siberian- European transition zones.

Distribution in Iran includes East Azarbaijan, West Azarbaijan, Ardabil, Gilan, Mazandaran, Golestan, North Khorasan, Tehran, Qazvin, Zanjan, Hamedan and Kordestan Provinces. It also occurs in Mianeh, Tabriz, Dashte Moghan, Khoy, Takab, Orumieh, Mahneshan, Ghonbad Khavoos, Eskandar Dam, Agh Ghaleh, Ghorgan and Kalardasht. Semi-desert areas, fields, farms, grasslands, rocky areas, scrublands, forests and gardens are best habitats of this species.

Conservation situation

 Since 2004, Snake fire or Caspian whipsnake assigned as (Dolichophis caspius). International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) not listed this subspecies till now. This also is not listed on Convention on International Trade in Endangered species of wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), so new comprehensive researches must be noticed as soon as possible. This species is viperous, 5-12 relatively large eggs (5 cm long), laid in summer.

Besides is normally aggressive in confronting with human, does not try to escape but makes loud and annoying hiss-hiss noises and repeatedly attempts to bite. Lizards, snakes, small rodents, small bird and occasionally amphibians are diets of Caspian whipsnake.

Some interesting points

Romania is a country trying to conserve this specific species. It is the fastest and the most aggressive snake in Romania and it can grow up to 2 meters. Its bite can only be painful as it isn’t a venomous snake. Caspian whip snake like other members of Colubridae have teeth on both jaws. It makes a determined and nimble chase, seizing their prey with their teeth or grasping them with their coils, and swallowing them alive, usually head first. Caspian whip snake like all species listed in this family, with the exception of the smooth snake is oviparous and being found especially at the edge of the forest, near bushes, on rocky slopes. It is probably one of the most frequent victims of road traffic and deliberate killings, its natural habitat being under reduction.  

Leave a Comment

1 + 2 =