Lined Snake

Tropidoclonion lineatum (Hallowell, 1856)

Lined snake
Lined snake, photo by C.A. Phillips

Key Characteristics: White to gray midback stripe and another on each side; double row of dark half-moons extends down the midbelly; back scales keeled; anal plate not divided.

Similar Species: Common Gartersnake, Plains Gartersnake. See the Key to Illinois Snakes for help with identification.

Subspecies: None currently recognized.

Description: Small (up to 35 cm TL), slender olive brown to gray-brown snake. Each pale stripe is bordered by a row of minute black dots (dots more conspicuous in young). Head small, barely wider than body.

Habitat: Grasslands and urban lots in former prairie, where it is found under rocks, logs, leaves, boards, and other debris.

Natural History: Active March to November, spending less time at the surface during hot summers and more after heavy rains. Mates in late August and 5-10 young are born the following August or September. Newborn are 7-12 cm TL. This secretive and semifossorial nocturnal snake subsists almost entirely on earthworms. Predators include other snakes, birds, and mammals. Often curls its tail into a tight coil when disturbed, but otherwise passive.

lined snake Illinois distribution mapStatus: Rare and known from only a few scattered localities, mostly urban vacant lots, in central counties.

Etymology: Tropidoclonion – tropis (Greek) meaning keel; klon (Greek) meaning twig ; lineatum – lineatus (Latin) meaning ‘of a line’

Original Description: Hallowell, E. 1856. Notice of a collection of reptiles from Kansas and Nebraska, presented to the Academy by Dr. Hammond, U.S.A. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences Philadelphia. 8. 238-253.

Type Specimen: Holotype. ANSP 5922

Type Locality: “Kansas”

Original Name: Microps lineatus Hallowell, 1856

Nomenclatural History: Garman (1890) used the spelling Tropidoclonium lineata.