Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

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Bio Facts: Kingsnake, Blotched

Kingsnake, Blotched
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Common Name:

Apalachicola, Apalachicola Lowlands or Blotched Kingsnake

Scientific Name:

Lampropeltis getula goini

Family:

Colubridae

Order:

Squamata

Class:

Reptilia

Range:

Apalachicola region of Florida

Habitat:

Varied habitats near water

Description:

36” – 48” long (record specimen was 82” long); color patterns vary with combinations of black and yellow – banded (above) or patternless (below).

Diet:

In the wild they eat frogs, toads, lizards, rodents, turtle eggs, juvenile turtles and snakes including venomous species.  In the Zoo they are fed mice and rats supplemented with vitamin.

Status:

Uncommon

Behaviors:

Apalachicola kingsnake is mainly a diurnal (daytime active) snake that is seldom found on the move. They are secretive and tend to stay in or near areas that are cool and shaded from the sun and are often found under logs, in tall grass or leaf litter.

Kingsnakes use constriction to kill their prey and tend to be opportunistic when it comes to their diet; they will eat other snakes (ophiophagy), including venomous snakes, lizards, rodents, birds, and eggs. Kingsnakes are known to be immune to the venom of other snakes found in their range and are known to eat rattlesnakes.

Special Interest:

The Apalachicola kingsnake is a rare form of the common kingsnake and is only found in a small area of the Florida Panhandle (Apalachicola and Ochlocknee River Drainage Basins).  Long argued as to whether or not it is a sub-species, the Apalachicola Kingsnake was formerly named Lampropeltis getula goini. After years of research and many more specimens examined, in 2006 it was renamed after Dr. D. Bruce Means.

In an article in Contemporary Herpetology, D. Bruce Means and Kenneth L. Krysko propose that the population “evolved in isolation on a barrier island or the coastal strand of a peninsula during one of the many higher stands of the sea during the Pleistocene.” They argue that light-colored patterns would have conveyed adaptive advantages on sandy coasts. The snakes would be seen less easily by predators and would be less likely to overheat on the bright white sands.

The “king” in their name (as with the king cobra) is a reference to their taste for other snakes. Kingsnakes are not necessarily immune to the venom of snakes from different localities.

Folklore:

Lampropeltis means “shiny shield” (from Greek λαμπρος, “shine” + πελτα, “small shield”), due to their dorsal scales.

Jacksonville Zoo History:

This unique Florida form of kingsnake has been at the Jacksonville Zoo from 1985 to 1999 and again from 2001 to now.

Last Revised:

6/09