A field observation of copulating Little Whip Snakes Parasuta flagellum
An adult male Little Whip Snake Parasuta flagellum from the Merri Creek corridor, Donnybrook, southern Victoria, Australia.
Report on an
adult pair of Little Whip Snakes Parasuta flagellum observed copulating
in the field on the afternoon of the 14th October 1985 at 15:36 hrs
(Eastern Standard Time).
Creek corridor at Somerton (37° 36‘ S, 144° 57’ E), a northern
Melbourne suburb. Victoria, Australia.
basalt ridgeline with a north-easterly aspect, situated above a gentle
slope studded with surface basalt leading downwards for roughly thirty
metres to the edge of the Merri Creek. Several Tree Violet
Hymenanthera dentata shrubs growing along the base of the
small escarpment and remnant Kangaroo Grass Themeda triandra and
Wallaby Grass Poa sp. tussocks abutting the rock edges. The remaining
grassy understorey consisting entirely of noxious and invasive species.
Two loose coils of a male
Little Whip Snake Parasuta flagellum
were seen exposed to full sunlight
on bare rock along the top of the escarpment, the remainder of the
snake including the head and tail, concealed beneath the horizontal
crevice (20mm width) of a block exfoliation approximately 500mm
x 600mm x 550mm jutting above the parent rock. The air
temperature at that time was approximately 21°C., with a clear sky and a
slight south-westerly breeze. Upon closer scrutiny I observed another
(female) specimen lodged within the crevice that was roughly the same
length as the male specimen (approximately 350mm in total length) though
more robust in general build. Copulation, clearly joined at the vents,
continued uninterrupted for about thirty five minutes, with the male
seen to spasmodically rub his chin along the females dorsum.
flagellum is nocturnal in habit (Jenkins & Bartell, 1980) and
would presumably copulate at night. This is the only instance that I
have seen these quite secretive snakes in direct sunlight. I speculate
that at times when females are receptive, males may comply when
temperatures are adequate. In the southern half of Victoria the spring
evenings are markedly cool on average and perhaps too low for any
The male may have located the female by following a scent trail or
possibly was cohabiting the same refuge. I have recorded aggregations
of P. flagellum (usually a pair but often three specimens)
beneath surface basalt rock and within basalt rock exfoliations on many occasions,
particularly over the winter months.
Perhaps further research into another small nocturnal elapid, the
Eastern Small-eyed Snake Cryptophis nigrescens may uncover
further diurnal activity when the cold nights of spring coincide with
the mating urge in temperate Victoria.
Jenkins, R. & Bartell,
R. 1980. A Field Guide to Reptiles of the
Australian High Country. Inkata Press Pty Ltd. Melbourne. 278 pp.