Malpolon monspessulanus, commonly known as the Montpellier snake, is a species of colubrid.

Geographic rangeEdit

It is very common throughout the Mediterranean basin.[1] The snake's specific name is a Latinized form of Montpellier, a city in southern France.[2]


It is up to Template:Convert long and may weigh up to Template:Convert.

Behavior and DietEdit

It is active during the day and mainly feeds on lizards.[1]


Although it is venomous, only a few cases of envenomation of humans are known, one of which occurred when a finger was inserted into the snake's mouth. The Montpellier snake is not a dangerous snake for humans. The rear fangs reduce the possibility of venom injection, and the venom is of low toxicity. Venom injections are possible in bites of big individuals.[3] The poison is not very dangerous; symptomatic treatment suffices to treat an envenomation.[4].The unthreatening nature of the snake along with very mild persecution by man, has made it one of the more common species throughout its range, even in areas occupied by humans.


Genetic evidence suggests that the species originated in the Maghreb, migrating into southwestern Europe between 83,000 and 168,000 years ago and into southeastern Europe and western Asia at an earlier time.[1] It is most closely related to the North African and Arabian species Malpolon moilensis and to a fossil species from the Pliocene of Spain, Malpolon mlynarskii, with which it forms the genus Malpolon. Malpolon has a good fossil record, dating back to the Pliocene in both southwestern Europe and northern Africa, but many of the fossils are isolated vertebrae, which are difficult to assign to species. [1]


There are three major subspecies of M. monspessulanus throughout its Mediterranean range. There is a deep genetic divergence between the western subspecies, M. m. monspessulanus, and the two eastern subspecies, M. m. insignitus and M. m. fuscus, leading to a proposal to recognize the eastern form as a distinct species, M. insignitus. These two groups are estimated to have split about 3.5 to 6 million years ago.[1] A fourth subspecies, M. m. saharatlaticus, was described in 2006.

M. m. monspessulanusEdit

M. m. monspessulanus occurs in southwestern Europe (Spain, Portugal, southern France and northwestern Italy)[2] and the western Maghreb, where it is found in Morocco and coastal Algeria, east to Algiers. On the mid-body, there are usually 19 dorsal scale rows and a dark 'saddle' on the foreparts is present in males. M. m. monspessulanus possesses a single median process on its basioccipital bone that forms a strong spur, directed backwards; in the two eastern subspecies, two processes or indistinct hardened pieces of bones are present. There is little genetic or morphological differentiation between North African and European populations, suggesting a recent arrival in Europe.[1]

M. m. insignitusEdit

M. m. insignitus ranges from eastern Morocco through Algeria and from Tunisia around the Mediterranean Sea to western Syria, including Cyprus. In Morocco and western Algeria, it occurs at higher elevations than M. m. monspessulanus. It usually has 19 dorsal scale rows on its mid-body, but males lack a dark 'saddle'. It often has narrow, pale longitudinal stripes. Sequence data from the cytochrome b gene show that it is paraphyletic with respect to M. m. fuscus, with Cypriot M. m. insignitus more closely related to Greek M. m. fuscus than to North African M. m. insignitus.[1]

M. m. fuscusEdit

M. m. fuscus is found in southeastern Europe and Turkey through northern Iraq and western Iran.[1] It differs from M. m. insignitus in having only 17 dorsal scale rows on its mid-body.[1]

M. m. saharatlaticusEdit

Another subspecies, M. m. saharatlaticus, lives in the region from Bou Izakarn in Morocco to Dakhla in the Western Sahara, inland to Aoulouz and Tafraoute.[2]

Delimitation issuesEdit

Forms of M. monspessulanus found in the more arid parts of Syria, Jordan, and Iraq are sometimes hard to classify because they have either 17 or 19 scale rows, resembling both M. m. fuscus and M. m. insignitus.[1]

Human interactionEdit

The animal is not threatened by its interactions with humans and is assessed as "Least Concern", but it is often killed by cars and farmers, and is sometimes used by snake charmers and sold as curio.[5] Even in areas affected by humans, the population is stable and in some areas growing.[5] It is found in a number of protected areas.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Template:Cite journal
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Malpolon monspessulanus HERMANN, 1804. J. Craig Venter Institute. Retrieved on November 22, 2009.
  3. Bruna Azara, C. 1995. Animales venenosos. Vertebrados terrestres venenosos peligrosos para el ser humano en España. Bol. SEA, 11: 32-40
  4. Template:Cite journal
  5. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named iucn
bg:Вдлъбнаточел смок

ca:Serp verda de:Europäische Eidechsennatter es:Malpolon monspessulanus eu:Montpellierko suge fr:Couleuvre de Montpellier it:Malpolon monspessulanus he:תלום קשקשים מצוי ka:ხვლიკიჭამია გველი nl:Hagedisslang pl:Malpolon pt:Cobra-rateira sv:Ödlesnok

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