Salt Marsh Bandeds, Part X (09 May 2020)

Part X:
Fasciata Attitude, Fasciata Spunk

Though I have more photos of this individual, we’ll wrap up right now with this shot. Nerodia watersnakes, like all snakes I’ve encountered in Florida, are simply not aggressive by nature. They sometimes will, however, vigorously defend themselves when they are harassed, molested, or cornered. In this case, the snake put on a pretty good show when the floating hominid snatched it from its salt marsh mud-perch, but, to be honest, the snake barely made much of an attempt at actually striking or biting me (even though it had ample opportunity to do so). 

In total, I found four of these Nerodia in the salt marsh stands of the Tomoka Basin on this particular kayak trip. Though I have found individuals with phenotypic patterns you’d expect from Nerodia clarkii (such as dorsal and ventral striping along the first third of the body) in the past, I did not really see any of those patterns on any of these four individuals. Granted, I was only able to closely examine one out of four of these Nerodia, but that fourth one did seem to reaffirm what I’d suspected after the three previous sightings, that these seemed to primarily be Nerodia fasciata pictiventris, the Florida banded watersnake, deeply enmeshed in the muddy salt marsh stands of Tomoka Basin. Florida banded watersnakes are indeed resilient and strongly adaptable snakes. 

I very much look forward to extended genetic research of Floridian Nerodia fasciata and Nerodia clarkii populations. At the very least, the two species are very closely related to one another. I suspect they may be close enough to (again) warrant elimination of the species divide. Could the Salt marsh snake, Nerodia clarkii, simply be coastal populations of Nerodia fasciata with phenotypic and minor morphological variations   adapted to those habitats? Is there (or was there ever) really enough of a genetic divide to warrant species division between the two? 

With coastal development on the mainland and the eradication or disruption of near-coast freshwater systems, this might help explain why new generations of inland N. fasciata have moved into the salt marshes and, it seems, merged with or taken over our local Nerodia clarkii territory quite handily in Volusia County.

I anticipate the genetic research that will inevitably come at some point, and in the meantime I’ll keep kayaking the salt marshes of Volusia County in search of signs of N. fasciata and N. clarkii. 

If you’d like to check out all the Nerodia photos on this website (including N. clarkii and N. clarkii [x] N. fasciata), be sure to check out 

GENUS NERODIA

We now return to our more-standard bio-rhythm, though we’re not done with this kayak trip just yet… You don’t think watersnakes are the only reptiles that scratch out a living in the salt marsh, do you?

Nerodia fasciata pictiventris, the Florida banded watersnake;
Volusia county, Florida (09 May 2020).
Learn more about the Florida banded watersnake at iNaturalist.org.

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