Added 20 May 2007.




Spalerosophis are often referred to as Diadem Rat Snakes, although in fact they are probably more closely related to whipsnakes than the true ratsnakes (see Bartlett's note). This was formerly considered a single species with many subspecies, but recently some have been elevated to full species level and there is continued debate on the matter.

These are snakes of hot and arid areas: North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. For this reason Bartlett suggests general daytime temperatures of 86-90 deg F with 94-100 deg F under the basking lamp and a night time drop of 10-12 degrees. From my reading and Web browsing, opinions seem to differ on exactly how tame Diadems will become, but the consensus seems to be that regular handling is necessary to produce tame captives and that juveniles can be aggressive. If anyone would like to inform me of their experiences with Spalerosophis then I would be glad to pass on their experiences on this page.

S. arenarius, Red-Spotted Diadem Snake S. diadema, Diadem (Rat) Snake S. dolichospilus, Werner's Diadem Snake
S. josephscortecci, Scortecci's Diadem Snake S. microlepis, Zebra Snake  

Scientific Name Common Name Distribution Size Notes
S. arenarius Red-Spotted Diadem Snake, Red-Spotted Royal Snake, Blotched Diadem Rat Snake Pakistan Max >5': avg 3-3½'  Bartlett (2001) noted that this snake was uncommon in the pet trade. Coloration: pale sandy-tan, with busy pattern of maroon to strawberry (sometimes warm brown) dorsally and laterally [SOURCE: Bartlett 2001].
S. diadema Diadem (Rat) Snake, Camel Snake North Africa and Sahara through Middle East to Central Asia and Indian subcontinent Max 180cm/6': avg 150cm/5'. Found in arid and semi-arid areas, often including cultivated areas but also deserts, dry river beds with sparse vegetations and palm groves in oases. It may hide beneath stones, among loose rocks, under plant roots or in rodent burrows. Altitude ranges from sea level to 2,000m. In the summer it switches from diurnal activity to a crepuscular or nocturnal pattern. The oral glands secrete a substance highly toxic to small mammals, which form some part of its diet as well as lizards up to agamid sizeand sometimes small birds. In captivity it can be fed with rodents and birds including poultry chicks. Scalation details: rostral nearly as wide as deep; prefrontals normally split into a number of shields; 3-5 loreals; 2-3 (sometimes 1) preoculars; 3-5 postoculars; temporal also broken up into number of shields; 10-13 infralabials; dorsals obtusely keeled to some degree, in 25-33 rows at midbody; 210-278 ventrals; 64-110 subcaudals; anal single. Other: head elongate and slightly triangular, distinct from neck; eyes rather large, with round pupils; body long and cylindrical; tail long. Coloration: overall greyish, yellowish, sandy or reddish; dorsal central row of rhombic reddish or dark brown spots; lateral row of narrow dark spots alternates with the dorsal spots; narrow black stripe on each side of the neck, and another dark stripe from behind the eye to the angle of the mouth; head dorsally marked with irregular spots or several dark transverse bands on the forehead; ventrally whitish or reddish, either uniform or some quantity of small blackish spots. Reproduction: females are larger; in Israel at least up to 2 clutches per year may be laid; clutch size 3-16 eggs; older females may tend to lay only biannually; incubation period 59-61 days at 30 deg C; sexual maturity is reached in middle of 3rd year [SOURCE: KKS].  B I
S. d. diadema Diadem Snake Pakistan, India Coloration: overall light brown or fawn; 3 sets of large dorsal spots, of which the central row is roundish or rhomboidal or consists of short transverse bars; median spots alternate with the smaller dorsolateral spots; head light brown, spotted or mottled with darker markings; often band between eyes and mark on parietals, either joined to each other or separate or may have 2-3 short stripes running backwards; ventrally white [SOURCE: Daniel].  B I
S. d. atriceps Royal Diadem Snake Central Asia, Pakistan and India Not listed as a subspecies by KKS; considered a full species by some (eg Bartlett 2001). The Bartletts consider this to be the most impressively coloured of the variants. Coloration: buff, pinkish buff or pale brown, flanks lighter and may be citron yellow; some scales deep claret red, irregularly arranged; head and neck strawberry scarlet, or head may be claret red and neck scarlet, the latter zones either merging or clearly differentiated; ventrally uniform rose pink, laterally mottled; melanistic forms also found [SOURCE: Daniel].
S. d. cliffordii Clifford's Diadem Snake Morocco, Algerian, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Sudan, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, W Iran "Paler and less prettily coloured" according to Bartlett & Bartlett. May be referred to as the Egyptian Diadem Rat Snake. Coloration: occurs in a light and a dark phase, of which the light is the most common. Overall sandy-buff (deep brown in the dark phase), with both dorsal saddles and lateral spots well-defined; thin bar of medium brown divides each pale area between the dorsal saddles [SOURCE: Bartlett 2001]. B I
S. d. schirazana Plateau Diadem Snake Iran (Bushire, Zagros Mtns), S Turkmenia, Afghanistan, India "rather muted markings" [Bartlett 2001]. B I
S. dolichospilus Werner's Diadem Snake, Long-Marked Snake C & SW Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia Max 1.5m/5': avg 1.3m Very similar to S. diadema, of which it was formerly a subspecies: however, unlike the latter it avoids oueds (river beds) and steppes and is found at lower altitudes (up to 1,000m). KKS note that this is an extremely rare snake. Diet is the same as for S. diadema. Scalation details: rostral usually nearly as wide as deep; prefrontals, loreals and temporals broken up into varying number of scales; prefrontals £7, unequal and in several rows; 5-9 loreals; 10-13 supralabials. Coloration: dorsally yellowish or brownish, usually with dorsal row or 38-52 large oval or roundish brownish-black spots; 1-2 lateral rows of spots which are often elongate; dark transverse band on head between eyes, may be interrupted; dark blotches on parietal region; dark lateral stripe on side of neck which may join lateral body markings; ventrally pale yellow. Other: see S. diadema. Reproduction: probably similar to S. diadema [SOURCE: KKS].
S. josephscortecci Scortecci's Diadem Snake, Somalian Diadem Snake Somalia   "rather muted markings" [Bartlett 2001].
S. microlepis Banded Diadem Snake, Zebra Snake Iran    


Corn Snakes and Other Rat Snakes (Complete Pet Owner's Manual) by R D & P Bartlett, Barrons Pet Series 1996.

Amphibians and Reptiles of North Africa, W Kästle, H H Schleich and K Kabisch, Koeltz Scientific Books, Germany 1996.

The Book of Indian Reptiles and Amphibians, J C Daniel, Bombay Natural History Society, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2002.

"Diadem Snakes", Dick Bartlett, Reptiles 9:12 (December 2001). Good introductory article to the genus and the general care requirements.

"Spalerosophis diadema, Diadem Rat Snakes", Lenny Flank Jr, Reptile & Amphibian Hobbyist 5:1. Similar to Bartlett's article.


Chad Arment's article at, although I think from Bartlett's notes that his temperature suggestions are a bit on the low side.

Lowerground Reptiles has an article and some nice photos.

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