Nerodia erythrogaster (Forster) – Plain-bellied Watersnake
Nerodia erythrogaster (Forster) – Plain-bellied Watersnake

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Legend
     Exact locality, based on specimen(s) or photographs examined
     Exact locality, based on literature record believed valid
     Approximate locality based on specimen(s) or photographs examined
     Approximate locality based on literature record believed valid
     County record only, based on specimens or photographs examined
     County record only, based on literature report believed valid
     Type locality
?      Questionable and/or problematic record

Taxonomy:  Two of the four recognized subspecies of Nerodia erythrogaster (Crother et al. 2012) occur in Tennessee (Conant and Collins 1998).  These include N. e. neglecta (Copper-bellied Watersnake) and N. e. flavigaster (Yellow-bellied Watersnake).  While Bufalino and Scott’s (2008) phenotypic evaluation of N. e. neglecta and N. e. flavigaster generally supported Conant’s (1949) findings, Makowsky et al.’s (2010) phylogeographic analysis of the species found little support for the currently recognized subspecies. 

Distribution: The Plain-bellied Watersnake is found across all of West Tennessee and limited areas of Middle Tennessee.  Nerodia e. neglecta is scattered throughout the lower Cumberland River basin of Middle Tennessee (Scott 1967, Scott and Snyder 1968, Scott 1990, Conant and Collins 1998, Bufalino 1999, Bufalino and Scott 2003 and Waller et al. 2006). Nerodia e. flavigaster is known from south-central (Miller et al. 2005) and southwestern Tennessee (Eubanks and Pecor 2003, Norton 1971, Norton and Harvey 1975). Intergrades between the two races occur over the rest of western Tennessee (Bufalino 1999, Waller et al. 2006). 

Museum Records by Counties: AndersonUMMZ 115693, 115694.  BentonAPSU 3284, 16681. CheathamAPSU 4316, 5967.  CoffeeMTSU 78S.  CrockettAPSU 19138.  DavidsonAPSU 18939.  FayetteAPSU 16683- 16686.  GibsonAPSU 12396; MTSU 79S. HardemanAPSU 16858, 16861, 16870; LSUMZ 14001, 34931, 44005; UIMNH 83498; UMMZ 97015-97017; UTKVZC 4812.  HardinUTKVZC 4785.  HaywoodAPSU 15731-15733.  HendersonAPSU 2604.  HenryUMMZ 53327, 53531-53535.  HumphreysAPSU 17720.  LakeAPSU 12878, 13462; KU 21803, 82974, 82975; MoSU R780A, R793, R794, R2926-R2929, R3520, R3521, R3530, R3586, R4407; SIU R-890, R-961, R-962, R-1164-1166, R-1169, R1170, R1172, R-1276, R-1467, Uncataloged (1 specimen); TTU 277, 690; UIMNH 16757; UTKVZC 4689-4690.  LauderdaleUTKVZC 3873.  MadisonUMMZ 78517.  McNairyAPSU 12279.  MontgomeryAPSU 2078, 2116, 2125, 2129, 2130, 2230, 3295, 4309, 4486, 5457, 5463, 5481, 5488, 5491-5496, 5499, 5977, 5990, 6013, 6014.  ObionAPSU 2171, 2184, 2211, 3031, 13459-13461; KU 82411, 154144, 206544; LSUMZ 43978; MoSU R253; MSU 1007; USNM 125606; UTKVZC 6640.  ShelbyAPSU 11903, 11907-11910, 12275, 12382, 12386, 12401, 12894, 13376-13378, 13380-13394, 13396-13404, 13406-13442, 13444, 13446, 13447, 13458, 13476, 15734, 15735, 15813,   16575, 16668, 16680, 16682, 16687-16689, 17330, 17895; MSU 971, 1012, 1027, 1110.  Stewart APSU 280, 633, 703, 2190, 2944, 4749, 4926, 5459, 5462, 5465, 5497, 5498, 5952; NLU 16516.  TiptonAPSU 12876, 12895, 17547.  WeakleyAPSU 15736. 

Literature Sources by Counties: CarrollGibbons and Dorcas (2004). CheathamBufalino and Scott (1997, 2003), Bufalino (1999), Gibbons and Dorcas (2004), Smith (2009).  ChesterEndsley (1954), Gibbons and Dorcas (2004).  CoffeeMiller et al. (2005).  Crockett—Colvin and Dennison (2012b).  DyerWaller et al. (2006).  FayetteReam (2008).  GibsonMiller (1995a), Gibbons and Dorcas (2004).  HardemanParker (1948), Norton (1971), Norton and Harvey (1975), Bufalino (1999), Gibbons and Dorcas (2004).  HardinBufalino (1999), Gibbons and Dorcas (2004).  HaywoodStanley (2005), Waller et al. (2006).  HendersonGibbons and Dorcas (2004).  HenryGibbons and Dorcas (2004), Waller et al. (2006).  LakeParker (1948), Bufalino (1999), Gibbons and Dorcas (2004), Waller et al. (2006).  LauderdaleGibbons and Dorcas (2004).  MadisonGibbons and Dorcas (2004).  MontgomeryScott (1967), Scott and Snyder (1968), Bufalino (1999), Bufalino and Scott (2003),   Gibbons and Dorcas (2004).  ObionParker (1937a, 1948), Bufalino (1999), Gibbons and Dorcas (2004), Goodman and Monks (2006).  ShelbyParker (1941, 1948), Hassell (1961), Eubanks and Pecor (2003), Gibbons and Dorcas (2004).  StewartScott (1990), Rozelle (1999), Bufalino (1999), Bufalino and Scott (2003), Gibbons and Dorcas (2004).  TiptonGibbons and Dorcas (2004). 

Questionable and/or Erroneous Records: Two specimens in the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology (UMMZ 115693 and 115694) have “Tennessee, Anderson Co., near Norris” as the collection locality. Both are correctly identified as N. erythrogaster, but were probably collected in Alabama and not Tennessee as noted in the catalog.  They were cataloged among several other collections of assorted snake species collected by C. M. Tarzwell, some from Anderson County, Tennessee and others from “Alabama, Morgan Co., near Decatur.”  Considering that Anderson County, Tennessee is well outside the species’ range and Morgan County, Alabama is within it, and that no other specimens have ever been found in the vicinity of Norris, Tennessee, a mistake might have been made entering the locality data when these specimens were originally cataloged.  This could be the reason Gibbons and Dorcas (2004) ignored these records when describing the range of N. erythrogaster in their book on North American watersnakes. 

Conservation Status: Although populations of N. e. neglecta in Tennessee are not included, those north of the 40th parallel in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio are listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a Distinct Population Segment (DPS) that is threatened (Pruitt and Szymanski 1997).

Posted: 15 May 2012


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