Color Patterns & Scales Structure
Different species of snake can often be distinguished by their characteristic color patterns. Some are single uniform colors. Others have dark or light markings organized into stripes, spots, blotches or some other pattern. Examples of the major types of color patterns are illustrated here.
Stripes are narrow lines of color that run lengthwise down the snake's body. They may be only one scale wide or may be several scales wide.
Crossbands are bands of color extending across the back and down the sides, but do not cross the belly. The belly frequently is a lighter contrasting color.
Blotches are large squarish or irregular shaped markings, frequently with dark borders. Large rectangular blotches that cross the back resemble crossbands.
Rings are bands of color that extend across the back, down the sides and across the belly to completely encircle the body.
Diamonds are slightly overlapping diamond-shaped blotches running down the middle of the back. They usually have dark borders or dark and light borders.
Smooth or Keeled Scales
The scales on the backs of snakes are either smooth or they are keeled. Smooth scales, just as the name indicates, have a smooth surface that reflects the light, making the color pattern of many smooth-scaled snakes shiny, glossy or iridescent. In contrast, keeled scales have a raised ridge running lengthwise down the center of the scale. That keel scatters the light differently than do the flat portions of the scale. As a consequence, most snakes with keeled scales are not shiny; they have a dull, non-reflective appearance.
Smooth Scales have a smooth surface that reflects the light. If you are not sure it has smooth scales, but your snake has a shiny, glossy or iridescent color pattern, chances are it has smooth scales.