Dahl’s Whip Snake (Platyceps najadum)

/ / Reptiles



          Platyceps najadum is found within the Family Colubridae and the subfamily Colubrinae.  It was until recently found within the genus Coluber alongside other whip snakes.  Platyceps najadum is a small, slender, snake rarely larger than 100cm.  It does not have any keeled (a) scales on the centre of the body.

It is an olive green to grey colour leading to a uniform brown half way down the body.  The underside of the head is white and there are distinct black spots, ringed with white, down the side of the neck (2).  Melanistic (b), all black, forms have also been recorded on the islands of Samos, Chios and Kalymnos (2).

The scaling of this snake is very smooth with 19 dorsal scales (c) across the body, between 205 and 223 ventral scales (d) and 104 to 138 pairs of sub-caudal scales (e) (1).


               Platyceps najadum is found in dry areas with stones and low growing vegetation.  This also includes open areas in forests and river beds.  This species is commonly seen in low lying areas but is be found up to 2000m above sea level (1).

Life Cycle

               Platyceps najadum is an annual (f) breeder usually producing clutches of three to 16 eggs (2).  They produce long elongated eggs and hatchlings are around 30cm in length (1).


                Dahl’s Whip Snake has a large range across eastern Europe and western Asia, including Croatia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and as far east as the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan (3).  In Greece it is found on the mainland as well as the islands of Chios, Samos and Lesvos.  The population on Kalymnos is thought to be an endemic subspecies (3).


                  This species preys predominantly upon insects and lizards with autotomized (g) tails being found in their stomachs.  Larger individuals may also take small mammals it they are available.  Juveniles feed mainly on insects.  Platyceps najadum actively chases its prey rather than ambushing it (2).

Conservation Status

                  Under both the European Regional Assessment of the IUCN Red List (h) and the global assessment Platyceps najadum is classed as being a species of Least Concern (3).  It is still listed, like many European reptiles, under Annex III of the Bern Convention (4).


(a) Keel – Ridge running lengthways along the centre line.

(b)  Melanism – The occurrence of an increased amount of dark pigmentation.

(c)  Dorsal Scales – Longitudinal series of plates that encircle the body.

(d) Ventral Scale – The enlarged and transversely elongated scales that extend down the underside of the body from the neck to the anal scale.

(e) Sub-caudal Scales – Enlarged plates on the underside of the tail.

(f)   Annual – Occurring yearly.

(g) Autotomize – A process whereby an animal sheds a body part, such as the tail in lizards.  This is followed by the regeneration of said body part.

(h) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species was founded in 1948 and is the most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of plant and animal species.

(i)   The Bern Convention was adopted in Bern, Switzerland in 1979, and came into force in 1982. The principal aims of the Convention are to ensure conservation and protection of wild plant and animal species and their natural habitats.


Description written by Gareth Parry (2010)

(1)  Arnold. N., and Ovenden. D. (2004) Reptiles and Amphibians, Third Edition, Collins, London.

(2) Valakos. D.V, Pafilis. P, Sotiropoulos. K, Lymberakis. P, Maragou. P and Foufopoulos. J.(2007) The Amphibians and Reptiles of Greece. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt am Main.

(3)  IUCN European Regional Assessment (2009) IUCN Red List of Threatened Species [online] Available:

http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/157277 [date accessed: 23/09/2010]

(4)  Bern Convention Appendix III (2002) Bern Convention Appendix III List [online] Available:

http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/FR/Treaties/Html/104-3.htm [date accessed: 23/09/2010]