Natrix maura

Natrix maura
Natrix maura
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Subfamily: Natricinae
Genus: Natrix
Species: N. maura
Binomial name
Natrix maura
(Linnaeus, 1758)

Natrix maura is a natricine water snake of the genus Natrix. Its common name is viperine water snake or viperine snake. Despite its common names, it is not a member of the Subfamily Viperinae. This nonvenomous, semiaquatic, fish-eating snake was given its common names due to behavioural and aesthetic similarities with sympatric adder species.



The viperine snake looks like an adder and behaves like one. It is known to strike like an adder but not bite. On the other hand, when in water, the viperine snake then looks like a grass snake and hunts its prey in the same way. The viperine snake should really be called the viper grass snake. In the small areas of England where it breeds in the wild it is usually mistaken for an adder and vice versa. This snake is diurnal.[1]

Geographic range

The viperine snake is found in southwestern Europe and nothwestern Africa. Specifically, Natrix maura is found in the European countries of: Portugal, Spain, France, northernwest Italy and even into Switzerland. It has spread to areas of England as well. It is found in African countries of Morocco, northern Algeria, northwestern Libya, and northern to central Tunisia.[1]


Natrix maura is gray, brown, or reddish dorsally, with a black zigzag vertebral stripe, and lateral series of black ocelli with yellow centers. The labials are yellow with black sutures. It has a diagonal dark band on each temple, and another behind it on each side of the neck. Ventrally it is yellow or red, checkered with black, or all black.

The strongly-keeled dorsal scales are arranged in 21 rows. The ventrals are 147 -160; the anal plate is divided; and the paired subcaudals are 47-72.

Adults may attain a total length of 85 cm (33½ inches), with a tail 17 cm (6⅝ inches) long.[2]


The viperine snake is found in rivers and lakes, and has also been recorded from areas of brackish water.

See also

  • List of reptiles of Italy


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ Boulenger, G.A. 1893. Catalogue of the Snakes in the British Museum (Natural History), Volume I. London. pp. 235-237.
  • Arnold, E.N. and J.A. Burton. 1978. A Field Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Britain and Europe. Collins. London. 272 pp.