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Posted by PiersonH on January 31, 2003 at 06:37:12:
In Reply to: watersnake / gartersnake posted by Mizar 21 on January 31, 2003 at 05:38:18:
Watersnakes (genus Nerodia) are descendants from Gartersnakes (genus Thamnophis). They simply have evolved to take maximum advantage of aquatic habitats (such as prey and refugia) but nothing in their morphology restricts them to water. Watersnakes and Gartersnakes have similar diets and actvivity patterns but have some behavioral differences that allow them to partition habitat rather well.
There are at least two species (maybe 3) of Thamnophis that are right on the cusp of being Watersnakes. T. rufipuntatus (Narrow-headed) and T. valida ("Pacific Watersnake") are highly aqautic and have adapted to watery habitats in the deserts of the SW US and Mexico. They are still classified as Thamnophis becuase they have single anal scales (not all, but most!) which is generally considered to be a Gartersnake characteristic.
Gartersnakes generally have some form of striping, Watersnakes usually don't (with the exception of N. clarkii clarkii).
Hope this helps and maybe someone else can add to this.