The Most Beautiful Snake

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The Most Beautiful Snake

Which snake do you think deserves the title of most beautiful snake?

Interview With Herpetologist and Author Dick Bartlett
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Neonate Corn Snake Growth
Click image to enlarge
Brazilian Rainbow Boa
Brazilian rainbow boa.
Carpet Python
Carpet python, photo by Bill Love.
Green Tree Python
Green tree python.
Okeetee Corn Snake
Okeetee Corn Snake from CornUtopia.com, photo by Bill Love.
San Francisco Garter Snake
San Francisco garter snake, photo by Jeremiah Easter.

Aside from their interesting behavioral quirks, the main thing that may attract a hobbyist’s eye to a specific reptile or amphibian species is, of course, its appearance. These animals already look like no other, but because some display such amazing colors and patterns they are well nigh irresistible to some people. Many reptiles and amphibians can be extremely pleasing to the eye, but I’m going to focus on snakes for this particular blog. Let’s take a look at some serpent eye candy!

I’m going to leave color mutations out of the equation. There’s a mind-boggling assortment of variations on the basic theme of any number of snakes, from corn snakes to reticulated pythons. It’s true that these mutations can be startlingly beautiful, but let’s give some time in the sun to the “normal” animals. After all, isn’t it hard enough trying to pick a favorite without considering the hundreds of color mutations out there?


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The black-and-yellow majesty of a healthy jungle carpet python (Morelia spiolota cheynei) is hard to beat. The snake has gained a dedicated following, and with good reason. This subspecies does not get as huge as some of the other popular pythons – they range between 5 and 8 feet – and their appearance can be very striking. Speaking of striking, carpet pythons may also be a bit nippy when they’re young. As they mature, this behavior typically diminishes.

Jungle carpets certainly are pretty, but I’ve always greatly admired the reticulated python (Python reticulates). The color and pattern is nice, but those orange eyes have always had a hypnotic effect on me. There’s an old myth that says snakes can hypnotize people. When you look at a retic’s eyes, you can almost talk yourself into believing it. (If you want to read a blog devoted to snake myths, go here.)

Then there’s the Brazilian rainbow boa (Epicrates cenchria). The circular patterns and reddish base color are attractive enough in their own right, but this snake really turns heads because of the iridescence that gives it its common name. When light hits a rainbow boa just right, you’ll see rainbows playing over its scaly surface. This can be a sight to behold, for sure. I went on an ecotour to the Amazon once, and a rainbow boa was one of the many snakes (and other herps) we found during that trip. That shiny jungle dweller was a definite highlight.

But speaking of beautiful iridescence, what about the Boelen’s (Morelia boelini) or white-lipped python (Leiopython albertisii)? Both species may also display a stunning iridescence to compliment their already-attractive appearance.

I just remembered the emerald tree boa (Corallus caninus)! I’ve considered this snake one of the most beautiful since I was a kid, when it was my number one favorite! The green, white and yellow markings will forever mark this boa as a standout. Of course, now that I’m thinking about tree boas, I can’t leave out the Amazon tree boa (C. hortulanus), especially if I take into consideration the marvelous colors juveniles exhibit. This species undergoes an ontogenetic color change, meaning the babies may completely change color before they mature. Baby Amazon tree boas may be bright yellow, orange, red or other shades before taking on their adult coloration. Green tree pythons (Morelia viridis) also exhibit an ontogenetic color change, and young GTPs can be particularly stunning to look at, to say nothing of the adults and their beautiful green, sometimes tinged with blue, coloration.

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Truth be told, I’ve always thought the Aspidites species were lookers, too. Womas (A. ramsayi) and black-headed pythons (A. melanocephalus) are so cool looking, with their dark-and-light-banded display, and the black head’s black head gives this species an intriguing, maybe a little bit of a mysterious, air. These snakes are very majestic in appearance.

Of all these, I’d have to say the – WAIT! – I nearly forgot the San Francisco garter snake! Garter snakes overall can be a bit overlooked, but some garters are very beautiful, and none more so than the San Francisco garter (Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia). It’s sad that this species is getting more and more rare in the wild. Geez, now that I’m thinking of colubrids, how could I overlook the Okeetee corn snake (Elaphe guttata)? While it’s true there are many stunning corn snake colors to choose from due to captive breeding, I’ve always said that a normal Okeetee corn snake is still one of the most attractive snakes. I don’t think anyone could disagree. And the stunning orange-and-black Honduran milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum hondurensis) too! I can’t believe I almost forgot the Honduran!

I haven’t mentioned any venomous species yet. Some of these may be considered the most beautiful ever! The first that comes to my mind is the copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix), which I’ve always thought was exceptionally beautiful. But move out of North America and start considering some of the vipers, and some particularly bedazzling snakes come to mind. The eyelash viper (Bothriechis schlegelii) is so stunning because of its bright yellow coloration, as well as other colors it may exhibit, including green and orange. Then there’s the rhinoceros viper (Bitis nasicornis), which nearly defies description, with its reds, browns, blues, yellows and greens, and a pattern that resembles neon butterflies flying along its spine; it’s got a huge palette of colors. Moving from the vipers to a rear-fanged species, I’ve always held the mangrove snake (Boiga dendrophila) in high esteem; it joins the emerald tree boa as a snake I’ve considered gorgeous since I was a kid.

Let’s review. Up for the title of Most Beautiful Snake According to Russ we have: jungle carpet python, reticulated python, Brazilian rainbow boa, Boelen’s python, white-lipped python, emerald tree boa, Amazon tree boa, green tree python, woma, black-headed python, San Francisco garter snake, Okeetee corn snake, Honduran milk snake, copperhead, eyelash viper, rhinoceros viper and mangrove snake.

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One thing is for sure: Anyone who thinks snakes are ugly should check these snakes out. I don’t see how anyone could take a look at one of these snakes and not take a shine to them. I’m sure if more people were aware of the true beauty that is inherent in the snake universe, these amazing creatures could go a long way in shaking off the stigma of fear that is attached to them. Let’s all do our part to help others understand how beautiful these animals really are in every way.

Know what? I can’t pick a favorite. I like too many of them. But what about you? Do you agree that at least some of the species I’ve mentioned here would be deserving of the title? I’m sure you’ve got your own favorites, too – which did I leave out? Leave a comment below and let me know which snakes you think are the most beautiful and deserving of the title of Most Beautiful Snake!

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