This snake was long considered an intergrade subspecies of the Corn Snake (Elaphe guttata) and Great Plains Rat Snake (Elaphe emoryi), but it has recently been elevated to species status and named to honor the memory of Joseph Bruno Slowinski. These three sister-species are probably best delineated in Arkansas by simply consulting a range map, given that their ranges in the state do not overlap.
However, not all herpetologists consider the new species status as valid. Some websites present this snake as being Pantherophis guttatus or Pantherophis slowinski, but Crother et al. (2003) rejected the taxonomic change to Pantherophis, preferring to retain the current concept of Elaphe and the spelling guttata.
The Slowinski's Corn Snake is medium-sized, and colored grayish-brown with a series of large, alternating, chocolate-brown blotches. These blotches are often bordered in black. It has a spearhead marking on the head. The belly is checkered black and white, giving it an appearance of maize. (Its close relative, the Corn Snake, gets its name for this belly pattern.)
While superficially this species resembles the Prairie Kingsnake, the spearhead marking present on the head of the Slowinski's Corn Snake is usually sufficient for identification. Its body has a rounded top, steep sides, and a flat belly.
As young, this species can be distinguished from the Western Rat Snake be considering the dark bar that runs through each eye. In the Slowinski's Corn Snake, this bar extends through the jawline and onto the neck whereas in the Western Rat Snake the bar extends only to the jawline where it stops abruptly.
This species is nocturnal and quite secretive. As with its sister-species, the Great Plains Rat Snake (Elaphe emoryi), it is an excellent climber and likely spends a large portion of its time up in trees. These habits together may explain why it is so infrequently encountered by humans. Its nocturnal tendencies may also help it avoid dangers, such as day-foraging hawks.
The Slowinski's Corn Snake is likely similar in temperament to its sister-species, the Great Plains Rat Snake, which is very tame. The corn snake relies mainly on camouflage for defense and rarely bites.
This species feeds primarily on small mammals and birds. Prey, when caught, is constricted and consumed. Presumably, it follows an activity pattern similar to other rat snakes: hibernate through winter, breed in the spring, and lay eggs in the summer.
Distribution and abundanceEdit
This species is known only from isolated localities in the southeastern part of Arkansas. Trauth et al. indicate only a single locality in the state, Drew County. The abundance of this species is largely unknown, but the lack of voucher specimens seems to indicate that it is extremely rare.
- Behler, J. L., and King, F. W.; 1979 (1987). The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd ed. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 743 pp.
- Conant, R., and Collins, J. T.; 1998. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. 3rd ed., Expanded. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. 616 pp.
- Irwin, K. J. 2004. Arkansas Snake Guide. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Pocket Guide. 50 pp.
- Trauth, S. E., Robison, H. W. and Plummer, M. V.; 2004. Amphibians and Reptiles of Arkansas. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville. 421 pp.
- ↑ Veterinary herpetologist
- ↑ Crother BI, Boundy J, Campbell JA, De Quieroz K, Frost D, Green DM, Highton R, Iverson JB, McDiarmid RW, Meylan PA, Reeder TW, Seidel ME, Sites Jr JW, Tilley SG, Wake DB. 2003. Scientific and Standard English Names of Amphibians and Reptiles of North America North of Mexico: Update. Herp. Rev. 34: 196-203. PDF at Southeastern Louisiana University. Accessed 11 December 2010.