Gray Ratsnake Range Question

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mtratcliffe
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Gray Ratsnake Range Question

Post by mtratcliffe » September 27th, 2015, 4:01 pm

Hey All,

I was fortunate to turn up my lifer Gray Ratsnake (Pantherophis obsoletus spiloides) the other day while on my trip in Georgia. I found this individual in a cypress swamp in Charlton County, which is a new record for the H.E.R.P. database. I was surprised to see it as I thought I was still in the range for Yellow Ratsnakes.

ImageDSCN9300 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN9306 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr



Now take a look at some of these range maps:

Image

The middle shade of gray is the integrade zone for Gray and Yellow Rats:
Image

Charlton County for reference:

Image

Based on these maps, where I found this snake is an intergrade zone between Gray and Yellow Ratsnakes. Does this individual look to be a pure Gray Ratsnake, or might it have some Yellow in it as well? It looks Gray to me, but I really don't have any other individuals to compare it with. I'm curious as to whether this might be a range extension for them, as they can't range much further to the east than this.

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Stohlgren
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Re: Gray Ratsnake Range Question

Post by Stohlgren » September 27th, 2015, 6:22 pm

That's an interesting looking rat for the area. You don't really get any pure looking yellow rats in GA except very close to the coast or on the islands (and even those are typically a dull yellow or even gray base color). The background color of yours is normal, but they usually they have a combination of blotches and stripes like the one below. Don't look as nice as the white oak phase gray rats in southwest GA or the panhandle of FL, in my opinion.

Image

Coluber Constrictor
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Re: Gray Ratsnake Range Question

Post by Coluber Constrictor » September 27th, 2015, 6:32 pm

if it is in the intergrade zone, I'd just call it a rat snake and leave it at that. this one does look pretty gray though.

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mtratcliffe
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Re: Gray Ratsnake Range Question

Post by mtratcliffe » September 28th, 2015, 1:41 am

Stohlgren wrote:That's an interesting looking rat for the area. You don't really get any pure looking yellow rats in GA except very close to the coast or on the islands (and even those are typically a dull yellow or even gray base color). The background color of yours is normal, but they usually they have a combination of blotches and stripes like the one below. Don't look as nice as the white oak phase gray rats in southwest GA or the panhandle of FL, in my opinion.

Image
Thanks. Where is that one from? And I'm assuming that's an intergrade?

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Noah M
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Re: Gray Ratsnake Range Question

Post by Noah M » September 28th, 2015, 5:21 am

The head shot shows a hint of striping, and I see almost a mustard color, but by the time it gets to the body it is just saddles and gray. I would call yours a more gray version of a intergrade. Is it a pure gray? That's hard to tell. I don't think anybody would call it a yellow ratsnake, and it looks more gray than Kevin's. How gray does it get before you call it a gray ratsnake and not a mixed one? And are you making the judgement on appearances alone?

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JakeScott
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Re: Gray Ratsnake Range Question

Post by JakeScott » September 28th, 2015, 5:58 am

Like Kevin said, this is a typical look for that area. The mixed grayish-yellow and only a faintly defined line behind the eye and across the prefrontals. Even as the Peterson's guide demonstrates, the intergrade zone travels on a line from the gulf hammock area up through your location, so you can even find some that have the standard look of the "gulf hammock ratsnake" not far from there. This one below is a Charlton County intergrade:

ImageElaphe obsoleta williamsi by Jake Scott, on Flickr

And a true gray rat from the FL panhandle:

ImageElaphe obsoleta spiloides [Pantherophis alleghaniensis] by Jake Scott, on Flickr

-Jake

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Stohlgren
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Re: Gray Ratsnake Range Question

Post by Stohlgren » September 28th, 2015, 11:55 am

mtratcliffe wrote:Where is that one from? And I'm assuming that's an intergrade?
It's from Telfair county, which is a couple hours northwest of the swamp. I would call all of the rat snakes in southern Georgia intergrades except the ones in the extreme southwest (gray) or very close to the coast/barrier islands (yellow). Or you could just call them all eastern rats, but where's the fun in that?

Here's a couple yellows from GA barrier islands.

They don't get very yellow:
Image

The color fades in the older individuals:
Image

And a big ugly bruiser:
Image

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mtratcliffe
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Re: Gray Ratsnake Range Question

Post by mtratcliffe » September 29th, 2015, 2:01 am

Interesting stuff - Ratsnakes sure do have a lot of variability with all the subspecies and intergrades. Thanks for the input everyone!

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BillMcGighan
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Re: Gray Ratsnake Range Question

Post by BillMcGighan » September 29th, 2015, 8:18 am

Ok, folks, this is a great subject. Your Eastern Ratsnake, Matt, from that area or anywhere in the broad integration range of variants are most interesting.


Stohlgren
That's an interesting looking rat for the area. You don't really get any pure looking yellow rats in GA except very close to the coast or on the islands (and even those are typically a dull yellow or even gray base color). The background color of yours is normal, but they usually they have a combination of blotches and stripes like the one below. Don't look as nice as the white oak phase gray rats in southwest GA or the panhandle of FL, in my opinion.
Absolutely, those from farther west can be dramatically contrasted.


Do I see a hint of creamy color in this one in question (indicating some yellowish genes?)



Coluber Constrictor
if it is in the intergrade zone, I'd just call it a rat snake and leave it at that.
This is pretty good advice looking at the amount of variation in the southeast.




captainjack0000
I see almost a mustard color,
I think I see that too but don’t put much credibility in these eyes when it comes to subtle color differences!





Jake Scott
Even as the Peterson's guide demonstrates, the intergrade zone travels on a line from the gulf hammock area up through your location, so you can even find some that have the standard look of the "gulf hammock ratsnake" not far from there.
Similarly from one county away (Baker) in FL, GH looks can be dominant in some areas:

.

Image
.
.
Image



The “Gulf Hammock” that Carr and Barbour “visualized” and described for the subspecies was very similar:


Image





Stohlgren
Here's a couple yellows from GA barrier islands.
These are interesting and as we go north, the stripes thicken.



Coastally in SC, they still look like the old “yellow ratsnake” variation, but slowly turn to a greenish then to a charcoal gray base color as you approach the VA border.
This is from coastal SE SC:


Image


But if you travel inland just 20 miles, we start darkening towards traditional “black rat” genes:


Image



Then another 30 miles west, darker yet:

Image



Then not much farther west:



Image

FrogO_Oeyes
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Re: Gray Ratsnake Range Question

Post by FrogO_Oeyes » October 3rd, 2015, 7:25 pm

You're relying on very dated information, as the colors and patterns vary somewhat within genetic groups, and in parallel between groups. Eastern GA has eastern ratsnakes, Scotophis [or Pantherophis, if you prefer] alleghaniensis, while the west has central ratsnakes, S.spiloides. The dividing line in Georgia is more or less the Appalachians and the Chattahoochee River.

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