Leith's sand snake | Psammophis leithii Gunther, 1869

Leith's sand snake,Psammophis leithii, snake

 Leith's sand snake | Psammophis leithii Gunther, 1869

Psammophis leithii is a species of mildly venomous & rear-fanged snake belonging to the Lamprophiidae family which is native to south Asia. It is also known as the Leith's sand snake. The appellation, leithii to this snake is given in honor of Andrew H. Leith, was a physician with the Bombay Sanitary Commission. Currently the species is reported from countries such as Afghanistan, India and Pakistan.

In India it is distributed in Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, UttarKhand, Andhra Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Maharashtra

Scientific classification
















P. leithii

Binomial name

Psammophis leithii Gunther, 1869



It has rostral broader than deep, visible from above; nostril is between two or three shields, the posterior one is divided into two where internasals are about half the length of prefrontals. On the other hand frontal is narrow & lengthier than its distance from the end of the snout; nearly as long as the parietals; loreal is twice as long as deep; pre-ocular single and in contact with the frontal; and two post-oculars. The temporals may be 1+2 or 2+2. upper labials 8-9, 4-5 or 5-6 enters in the eye; lower labials 5.  The dorsal scales are in 17/17/13-15 in rows at while the ventral scales are 159-188 in number; anal undivided, and the subcaudals are 82-138 in number.

Head elongated, broader than neck covered with smooth scales and snout depressed; body is long, thin, and slenderise having yellowish or pale greyish  color dorsally with black dots or four longitudinal brown stripes which are usually marked with black color at the edges, the outer passing through the eyes. Distinctive ridge are also seen between the top and side of head. Two dark stripes that are found on top dorsals originate from the top of head in forked manner. Upper lips are observed white, lined by black or dark brown streak on both either side of eyes. Eyes are large having rounded pupil. While the ventral side is white, uniform/spotted/marked with grey or olive in the middle, with or without a dark lateral line or series of dots.

Adults of this species may attain a total body length of 3 feet and 3 inches which includes a tail length of about 1 ft. Tails noticed are long, slender and thin having no stripes dorsally or the topmost dark stripes unite and retain few portion of it.

The species is oviparous in nature. Female lays a clutch of 4-10 eggs inside holes, crevices and mounds during summer months.

The serpent has its distribution mainly in grasslands or at places with low shrubs, degrading dry & open scrub-lands. Like all other species in this genus this species also possess mild venom which is not injurious to humans.

It is a diurnal species which also shows some arboreal for basking and foraging activities. Locomotion in these snakes is fast and shows serpentine movement. This species is active in behavior that’s why shows quick response in escaping manner to any foreign movement. The species is observed to take lizards, bird chicks and small rodents as a meal in its range.

It closely resemble to species viz., Psammophis condanarus and Psammophis schokari which are sympatric to it in many parts of deserts which often creates confusion in it identification.


Literature Cited:

Baig, K.J., Masroor, R., and Arshad, M. (2008). Biodiversity and ecology of the herpetofauna of Cholistan Desert, Pakistan. Russ. J. Herpetol., 15 (3): 193-205 - get paper here

Boulenger, G.A. 1890. The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma. Reptilia and Batrachia. Taylor & Francis, London - get paper here

Günther, A. 1869. Report on two collections of Indian reptiles. Proc. Zool. Soc. London, 1869: 500-507 - get paper here

Ingle, M., and Anil, S. (2013) First record of Leith’s Sand Snake (Psammophis leithii, Gunther, 1869) from Sheopur district, Madhya Pradesh, India. International Journal of Environment & Animal Conservation, 2 (1): 1-4

Patel, H., and Raju, V. (2019). Reptiles of Gujarat, India: Updated Checklist, Distribution, and Conservation Status. Herpetology Notes, 12: 765-777 - get paper here

Psammophis leithii at en.wikipedia.org retrieved on 22 April 2021

Psammophis leithii at reptile-database.reptarium.cz retrieved on 22 March 2021

Saba, A., Shermeen, I., Hira, A., Rimsha, K., and Sehrish, A. (2020). Diversity of amphibians and reptiles in Daphar Forest Sanctuary, district Mandi Bahauddin, Pakistan. Journal of Wildlife and Ecology, 4(1):15-26

Sahi D.N., and Koul, S. (2020). Annotated List of Amphibians and Reptiles of Jammu and Kashmir State. In: Dar G. & Khuroo A. (eds) Biodiversity of the Himalaya: Jammu and Kashmir State. Topics in Biodiversity and Conservation, vol 18. Springer, Singapore - get paper here

Saikia, U., Sharma, D.K., and Sharma, R.M. (2007). Checklist of the Reptilian fauna of Himachal Pradesh, India. Reptile Rap (8): 6-9 - get paper here

Smith, M.A. 1943. The Fauna of British India, Ceylon and Burma, Including the Whole of the Indo-Chinese Sub-Region. Reptilia and Amphibia. 3 (Serpentes). Taylor and Francis, London.

Wall, F. (1907) Notes on Snakes collected in Fyzabad. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc., 18: 101-129 - get paper here

Wall, F. (1911) Remarks on a snake collection in the Quetta museum. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc., 20: 1033-1042 - get paper here

Wall, F. 1907. Extension of the Habitat of the Sand Snake (Psammophis leithii). J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 18: 203 - get paper here



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Herps Of Doda: Leith's sand snake | Psammophis leithii Gunther, 1869
Leith's sand snake | Psammophis leithii Gunther, 1869
Leith's sand snake,Psammophis leithii, snake
Herps Of Doda
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