Added 24 September 2003. Last updated 10 January 2010 with details for A. javanicus and Bibliography.

File Snakes, Wart Snakes:



The family Acrochordidae consists of a single genus, Acrochordus. All three species are marked chiefly by their very loose skin, which hangs in folds and has granular scales.

These are aquatic snakes, although found in different habitats to one another. They are heavy-bodied and vary in length from about six to eight feet. Ventral plates are lacking (but see account for A. granulatus). The head is wide and large, with large eyes that are directed upward. Head scales are not enlarged apart from the labials [Alcala]. Both nostrils and lingua fossa (the notch for the tongue to protrude from) can be closed by means of flaps, and there are salt glands at the base of the sheath housing the tongue. Loreal scales are present, the teeth are solid. The tail is short and prehensile. Coloration is dorsally brownish and ventrally somewhat paler: young may have distinct brown banding or reticulations [Walls]. All have similar behaviour, being nocturnal piscivores (fish-eaters): Mattison suggests that occasionally marine invertebrates may also be taken. Reproduction is ovoviviparous.

Our knowledge of these snakes is otherwise somewhat limited since captives adapt poorly to captivity. Walls gives suggestions but notes the difficulties in acclimatisation and that it has been suggested the snakes need an increasing salt content in the water with age. These are certainly not snakes for most private hobbyists. They are economically important for their hide (known as "karong"), Alcala suggesting that they can be farmed easily in mangrove areas.

A. arafurae, Arafur File Snake A. granulatus, Little File Snake A. javanicus, Elephant Trunk Snake

Species Common Name Origin Adult size Notes
Family Acrochordidae
A. arafurae Arafur File Snake Papua New Guinea and N Australia 1.5-2.5m Freshwater species, mainly restricted to freshwater streams and lagoons, but freely enter estuarine waters and the sea. Scalation details: 11-14 scales between nasal and eye: 9-11 scales between lip and eye. Scales strongly keeled, in 120-180 rows at midbody. Coloration: dorsally grey to dark brown, with broad darker brown to black reticulations extending from a broad vertebral band to form either vague transverse bands or a series of circular or oblong blotches along the dorsum. These darkish reticulations extend into the whitish ventral area. [SOURCE: Cogger]
A. granulatus Little File Snake, Indian Wart Snake India, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and N Australia 60-120cm Found in estuaries and coastal waters: may be distinguished from the other species by its laterally compressed tail and a ridge-like structure along the ventral midline. Main diet is small crabs and fishes, hunted mainly in the intertidal zone. Scalation: 5-7 scales between nasal and eye: 5-7 scales between lip and eye. Scales on the crown are somewhat enlarged anterior to the eyes. Scales keeled, in 90-160 rows at midbody. Coloration: grey, brown or almost black with numerous narrow, indistinct whitish or fawn-coloured transverse bands which fade gradually on the belly. Reproduction: litters of 6-12 young reported. [SOURCES: Cogger, Mattison]
A. javanicus Elephant Trunk Snake Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia as far as the Great Sunda islands) Up to 2.9m Freshwater species but may also be found in brackish water: habitats include estuaries, rivers and canals. Feeds on fish, including eels. Characterised by short blunt head and lack of ventral fold. Coloration: overall olive- to grey-brown with faintly marbled black lateral pattern; ventrally lighter. Reproduction: litters of 18-48 young produced. [SOURCE: Cox et al].


Snakes of the World, Chris Mattison, Blandford, 1986/1992, London. A good book with the only reservation being that applied to Dieter Schmidt's, ie some of the taxonomy/classification is now out of date. Details on Acrochordidae are brief but useful.

Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, 6th edition, Harold Cogger, Reed New Holland, Australia, 2000. Gives details of A. arufae and A. granulatus as well as giving a brief overview of the genus.

Guide to Philippine Flora and Fauna. Volume X, Amphibians and Reptiles, Prof. Angel C Alcala, Natural Resources Management Centre, Ministry of Natural Resources and University of the Philippines, 1986. Gives details on both genus and A. granulatus.

A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Peninsular Malysia, Singapore and Thailand, Merel J Cox, Peter Paul van Dijk, Jarujin Nabhitabhata, Kumthorn Thirakhupt, New Holland, 2006. Gives details for A. granulatus and A. javanicus.

"Herps 101: The Advanced Snakes", Jerry G Walls, Reptile & Amphibian Hobbyist 5:3. Useful article giving an overview of the families of the Xenophidia.


The Acrochordidae section of the JCVI reptile database provided useful information regarding distributions and the history of recent taxonomic changes.

Reptiles of Indonesia has a brief section on all three species.


Back to Snake Families | Back to Snakes | Back to Reptiles | Back to Herpetology | Back to Home Page