Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti

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Florida Cottonmouth
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Viperidae
Subfamily: Crotalinae
Genus: Agkistrodon
Species: A. piscivorus
Subspecies: A. p. conanti
Trinomial name
Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti
Gloyd, 1969

The Florida Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti) is one of three subspecies of the cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus) found east of the Mississippi River. The epithet conanti is in honor of American herpetologist Roger Conant.[1]

Geographic range and habitat

The Florida Cottonmouth is commonly found in Florida, southeastern Alabama and southern Georgia. Its preferred habitats are pine flatwoods, ponds and stagnant streams, as well as brackish water habitats, such as estuaries.

Size and appearance

Adult snakes average 36 inches in length; however, individuals measuring up to six feet in length have been documented. Compared to other snakes of similar length, the Florida Cottonmouth is heavy bodied. Like most pit vipers, the snake's head is triangular in shape and thicker than the neck. Juveniles have alternating bands of yellow and brown, making them appear somewhat similar to copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix). Adults lose the bands upon reaching maturity and develop a dark, muddy-brown hue with faint brown stripes circling the body.

Diet and behavior

As with all snakes, the Florida Cottonmouth is a carnivore, consuming small mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles. The Florida Cottonmouth first incapacitates its prey with a dose of its hemotoxic venom, before ingesting it whole. Young cottonmouths are known to use their bright yellow tail as a lure to entice frogs to move within striking range.

Reproduction

The Florida Cottonmouth is ovoviviparous and, while it has no specific mating season, most births occur in summer. Females generally only breed every other year and give birth to between one and 15 young per litter. Newly born snakes average 7 inches in length.

References