Nerodia taxispilota, the Brown watersnake, photographed in Lake county, Florida (28 June 2014).
In the wonderfully wiggly world of All Things Reptilia, there are two genera that truly rock my world: Genus Anolis, the anole lizards, and Genus Nerodia, the New World watersnakes. In Florida, we (arguably) only have one native species of anole, the Carolina anole (Anolis carolinensis), though it is now accompanied by a number of non-native anole species throughout the peninsula. In the world of watersnakes, on the other hand, we have a good number of differing species belonging to Genus Nerodia, and several of those species are further broken into distinctive subspecies.
I suppose it shouldn’t be too surprising that a single genus of watersnakes has done so well and diversified so much in the American southeast, particularly in Florida. This is a region dominated not only by water, but by many different hydric systems of water. We have the ocean, of course, along with its accompanying salt marshes and mangrove swamps. Then there are the rivers — some being clearwater spring-fed runs and others being dark, slow-moving tannic streams. We have a number of different types of lakes and ponds, as well. There are seasonal wet prairies, hyrdric wetlands, flood plains, cypress swamps, and irrigation canals, just to name a few. Each of these water-fuelled ecosystems has its own ecological matrix, so it really shouldn’t be a surprise that different watersnake species have adapted to these different habitats and ecosystems.
In this post, we’re going to check out the Brown watersnake, Nerodia taxispilota, a large, non-venomous species common throughout much of the American southeast.