Water Snakes (Nerodia): Species, Habitat, Diet, & More

Water snakes scientifically known as “Nerodia “ is a specie of snake (serpentes). They are a genus of nonvenomous colubrid snakes commonly referred to as water snakes due to their aquatic behavior. The genus includes nine species, all native to North America. However, in this article, we’ll be looking into the facts of this species and what they are capable of.

The Common 8 Species of Water Snakes (Nerodia)

According to research, there are about 69 species of water snakes. However, below are the most common 8 species of water snakes (Nerodia) around the world;

1. Diamondback Water Snake (Nerodia rhombifer)

Water Snakes (Nerodia): Species, Habitat, Diet, & More
The diamondback water snake’s scientific name is Nerodia rhombifer.

Diamondback water snakes (Nerodia rhombifer) are non-venomous and non-aggressive. They feed primarily on catfish, amphibians, smaller snakes, baby turtles, insects, crayfish, and small mammals. When threatened, they spray musk from their anal glands to deter predators.

Diamondback snakes live throughout the eastern United States near sources of permanent water like ponds, lakes, and rivers. These heavy-bodied snakes can grow up to five feet long, and produce up to 50 baby snakes with every birth. They’re yellow to brown in color with distinct darker hexagonal rings encircling the length of their bodies.

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2. Brown Water Snake (Nerodia taxispilota)

Water Snakes (Nerodia): Species, Habitat, Diet, & More
The brown water snake’s scientific name is Nerodia taxispilota.

Like the diamondback, the brown water snake (Nerodia taxispilota) feeds primarily on fish, preferring mostly catfish. It can grow up to five feet long and has thick, heavy bodies. Brown water snakes are exceptional swimmers and flee into the water when threatened. They’re only found near sources of permanent water, as fish make up most of their diet.

3. Banded Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata)

Water Snakes (Nerodia): Species, Habitat, Diet, & More
Also known as southern water snake, the banded water snake’s scientific name is Nerodia fasciata.

Banded water snakes (Nerodia fasciata) live throughout Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. They prefer sources of flowing water, like rivers, cypress creeks, and canals, but also live in lakes and marshlands.

Their prey mostly consists of frogs, newts, salamanders, toads, crayfish, fish, and tadpoles. They’re not aggressive but will bite if threatened or provoked. Females produce 15-20 young per birth. 

The banded water snake’s coloring ranges from yellow-red to brown-gray, with darker stripes along the back, and a pale belly. It is smaller than other species of water snake, topping out at 3-3.5 feet long, but has a heavy body for its size.

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4. Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon)

Water Snakes (Nerodia): Species, Habitat, Diet, & More
The northern water snake’s scientific name is Nerodia sipedon.

Northern water snakes (Nerodia sipedon) live in many parts of the eastern United States. Unlike many species of water snake though, they’re not found in Florida, or along the southeastern coast. They also live as far north as the southern shores of the Great Lakes. They’re most likely to be seen in ponds, rivers, lakes, and swamps.

Northern water snakes eat amphibians and fish; they’re semi-aquatic and leave the water to bask in the sun. Like many species of water snake, they like laying on rocks near the water or hanging out in branches that overhang the water. They grow to between 2-4.5 feet long and can be recognized by their yellow to gray bodies with darker splotches.

5. Plain Bellied Water Snake (Nerodia erythrogaster)

Water Snakes (Nerodia): Species, Habitat, Diet, & More
Plain-bellied water snakes scientifically known as “Nerodia erythrogaster” eat frogs, toads, and salamanders

Nerodia erythrogaster, commonly known as the plain-bellied water snake or plainbelly water snake, is a familiar species of mostly aquatic, nonvenomous, colubrid snake endemic to the United States. These snakes can grow up to four feet long; unfortunately, people often mistake them for the venomous cottonmouth and kill them on site. They eat salamanders, frogs, toads, fish, and crayfish.

Unlike other species of water snake, the plain bellied water snake (and its subspecies) flees to dry land when threatened. Males are smaller than females that can produce up to 55 young per birth.

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6. Green Water Snake (Nerodia cyclopion)

Water Snakes (Nerodia): Species, Habitat, Diet, & More
The  green water snake (Nerodia cyclopion). Green water snakes are also known as Mississippi green water snakes.

The green water snake (Nerodia cyclopion) is a common species of nonvenomous natricine snake endemic to the southeastern United States. As its name suggests, the Mississippi green water snake can be found throughout Mississippi. It is also common as far north as Illinois, and as far east as Florida. Like other water snakes, they’re semi-aquatic and eat mostly fish, amphibians, and rodents.

Adult green water snakes can reach up to 4.5 feet in length. They have heavy bodies that tend towards dark-green with darker markings along the back and sides with pale bellies. They’re non-aggressive but will bite if threatened.

7. Concho Water Snake (Nerodia paucimaculata)

Water Snakes (Nerodia): Species, Habitat, Diet, & More
The Concho water snake (Nerodia paucimaculata)

This type of water snake is found only in a few restricted areas in Central Texas. It is considered endangered because of habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, and polluted water. Unlike other water snakes, which live in still waters, the Concho water snake scientifically known as “Nerodia paucimaculata” inhabits only flowing rivers. 

Concho water snakes are small for water snakes – adults top out around three feet long. They range from tan to red-brown in color, with slightly darker checkerboard markings along their backs. Their diet consists almost entirely of fish and minnows.

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8. Brazos Water Snake (Nerodia harteri)

Water Snakes (Nerodia): Species, Habitat, Diet, & More
Brazos water snakes scientifically known as “Nerodia harteri” and also called commonly Harter’s water snake.

Brazos water snakes botanically known as “Nerodia harteri” and also called commonly Harter’s water snake are named for the only river in the world where they can be found – the Brazos River, in Texas. Because of their rarity, they’re listed as a threatened species. Like the Concho water snake, the Brazos water snake inhabits only flowing sources of water. They prefer areas with little vegetation, preferring instead rocky rivers with rock outcroppings to bask on.

These snakes range from dun-colored to green or gray. They have four rows of checkerboard patterned darker splotches and pale bellies. Their heads are more triangular in shape than other species of water snakes. But, they’re non-venomous, and not dangerous to humans.

11 Water Snake Facts (Facts about Water Snakes)

1. There Are 69 Species of Sea Snakes

Although, most divers that go undersea usually see a handful of snake species during their time underwater. However, in recent research, it was shown that there are actually 69 identified water snake species.

To make things simple, a scientist who went on researching this reptile came up with two categories of water snakes, the true snakes, and the sea kraits. The true sea snakes spend most of their lifetime at sea, while the sea kraits split their time between land and sea.

2. You Can Easily Identify Water Snakes

If you ever find yourself sea diving, at some point in time you may come across one or two species of water snakes.

However, it is impractical to analyze the DNA of every snake but the easiest way to identify each snake you come across is their paddled-like tails. They use their flat tails to propel faster in the sea, but at the same time, these tails of theirs make them clumsier on land.

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3. There Are No Sea Snakes In The Atlantic Ocean

Sea snakes or water snakes spend most of their lifetime at sea. And, they can be mostly found in subtropical and tropical waters of the Pacific and Indian oceans.

Although, they are not found in the Caribbean sea and Atlantic ocean. Also, sea snakes or water snakes are also found in areas of high salinity such as the red sea.

4. Sea Snakes Have Been Around For Millions Of Years

The first water/Sea snakes came into existence and began to evolve about eight million years ago in Southeast Asia Cora Triangle. However, most species only evolved one to three million years ago.

5. Water Snakes Can Hold Their Breath For a Really Long Time

Unlike fish, water snakes need air to survive. In fact, every specie of water snake at some point in time needs to return to the surface periodically to survive. Some Sea snakes surface every 30 minutes to breathe. Unlike the main Sea snakes that can spend up to 8hrs at sea before surfacing.

That’s because these snakes can actually absorb up to 33% of the oxygen they need through their skin. They can also get rid of 90% of their carbon dioxide in the same manner.

Although, the specie of water snakes that can spend up to 8hrs at sea have the ability to absorb 33% of the oxygen they need through their skin. Also, they use their skin to get rid of 90% of their carbon dioxide.

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6. Sea Snakes Can Die of Thirst

These Sea snakes need fresh water to survive. Without water, they can’t survive. It will surprise you to know these waters head for land looking for fresh water. This is because the seawater itself I not fresh, as it contains salt.

Some snake species head to land to find water, while others wait for the rain to deposit fresh water on the surface of the ocean which they can then drink while swimming.

7. They Have Special Glands To Remove Salt Water

Although water snakes don’t drink salt water, that is why they resurface periodically to look for fresh water. But, they also have a special sublingual gland that helps them in purify the water they are in, by removing excess salt.

These glands sit under the snakes’ tongues and push out salt from the bloodstream into the mouth, meaning the snake can simply flick its tongue and expel the unwelcome salt.

8. They Can Dive Deeper Than Scuba Divers

Water snakes can dive to the depths of the sea. They can dive up to 800ft in search of food (prey). Although, most species of sea prefer to stay in the shallows relatively close to shore.

9. Sea Snakes Need Not Worry About Breathing In Water

As we know by now, sea snakes can hold their breath for a long period of time, as they take in 33% of oxygen. However, most water snakes move their nostrils when underwater.

This prevents them from breathing salty water. Unlike fish, water snakes can’t stay underwater for a long time as they need to go ashore periodically for both air and fresh water.

10. Sea Snakes Are Highly Venomous

You should be critical about water snakes they are extremely dangerous. This is because, unlike rat snakes, water snakes are venomous and can kill, so watch out for these snakes when sea diving. Many sea snake species have more venom than the average cobra or rattlesnake.

However, bites from water snakes are a bit rare when compared to snakes on land. Sea snakes only bite when threatened or disturbed. Fishermen sustain most of the world’s recorded sea snake bites. These mostly occur when they need to remove sea snakes from their nets or accidentally step on them in the water.

11. Some Sea Snakes Are Close To Extinction

Most Sea snakes are considered not endangered but some species are present on the IUCN Red List.

The Laticauda crockeri is listed as vulnerable, and the Aipysurus fuscus is endangered. Of most concern, however, are the Aipysurus foliosquama (Leaf-scaled sea snake) and the Aipysurus apraefrontalis (Short-nosed sea snake), both of which are critically endangered.

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Benadine Nonye

An Agric. Consultant & a Writer. - National Diploma in Agricultural Technology - Bachelor's Degree in Agricultural Science - Master's Degree in Science Education... Visit My Websites On: TheAgripedia.com - For Scientific Research Based Agricultural Knowledge and Innovations. Agric4profits.com - For Practical Agricultural Knowledge and Natural Health Benefits. WealthinWastes.com - For Proper Waste Management and Recycling Practices. Join Me On: Twitter: @benadinenonye - Instagram: benadinenonye - LinkedIn: benadinenonye - YouTube: Agric4ProfitsTV - Pinterest: BenadineNonye4u - Facebook: BenadineNonye

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