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Home » Animals » Species » Colubrid Snakes

Colubrid Snakes, Colubridae

The Colubridae family includes the following genera: Arizona - Glossy Snakes; Bogertophis - Desert Ratsnakes; Boigas - Catsnakes; Cemophora - Scarlet Snakes; Chilomeniscus - Sandsnakes; Chionactis - Shovel-nosed Snakes; Coluber - Racers; Conopsis; Dendrelaphis - Asian Tree Snakes, Bronzebacks; Dendrophidion; Dryadophis; Drymarchon - Indigo Snakes; Drymobius - Neotropical Racers; Elaphe - Corn Snakes, Fox Snakes, Rat Snakes, Ratsnakes; Ficimia - Mexican Hook-nosed Snakes, Southern Hook-nosed Snakes; Gyalopion - Hook-nosed Snakes, Western Hook-nosed Snakes; Lampropeltis - Kingsnakes, Milk Snakes; Leptophis; Masticophis - Coachwhips, Racers, Striped Racers, Whipsnakes; Mastigodryas; Amaral; Opheodrys - Green Snakes, Greensnakes; Phyllorhynchus - Leaf-nosed Snakes; Pituophis - Bullsnakes, Gopher Snakes, Pine Snakes, Pinesnakes; Pseudoficimia; Rhinocheilus - Long-nosed Snakes; Salvadora - Patch-nosed Snakes; Scaphiodontophis; Senticolis - Green Ratsnakes, Mountain Rat Snakes; Sonora - North American Ground Snakes, North American Groundsnakes; Spilotes; Stenorrhina; Stilosoma; Tantilla - Black-headed Snakes, Crowned Snakes; Homalopsinae; Natricinae; Xenodontinae

Brown House Snake, Lamprophis fuliginosus
Brown House Snake (Lamprophis fuliginosus)
© 2005 Wolfgang Wuster
The Boodontinae group might contain as many as 45 species in 15 genera, but the allocation of many of them is uncertain. At the very least, boodontines encompass several moderate-sized, smooth-scaled, oviparous, nocturnal, constricting snakes. among them are a dozen or more species of African housesnakes (Lamprophis), terrestrial serpemts that feed largely on rodents.


Lake Tanganyika Watersnake, Lycodonomorphus bicolor
Lake Tanganyika Watersnake (Lycodonomorphus bicolor)
© 2006 Thomas Eimermacher
Six species of African watersnakes (Lycodonomorphus) hunt fish underwater, constrict their prey, and even swallow small items while submerged.




Wolf Snake, Lycophidion albomaculatum
Wolf Snake (Lycophidion albomaculatum)
© 2008 Wolfgang Wuster

African wolfsnakes, so named for their long front teeth, feed mainly on skinks; they also have flat heads and peculiary shiny skin, perhaps associated with their squeezing through crevices.

Cape-file Snake, Mehelya capensis
Cape-file Snake (Mehelya capensis)
© 2007 Anthony M. Childs

Ten species of African filesnakes (Mehelya, unrelated to australasian filesnakes) eat mainly other snakes. One 1.6-m Cape filesnake contained a 1-m Olive Grass Snake, and 82-cm african Rock Python, a 53-cm Brown Watersnake, and a 48-cm Spitting Cobra. The triangular cross-sectional shape, the basis for the common name of these snake-eaters, might identify them as non-prey if seized by other filesnakes.

Sinai Dwarf Racer, Eirenis coronelloides
Sinai Dwarf Racer (Eirenis coronelloides)
© 2008 Maik Dobiey

This large subfamily is worldwide, although primarily confined to the Northern Hemisphere. North American Racers and whipsnakes are slender, fast-moving diurnal creatures. Thirteen species of Eurasian dwarfsnakes range from small arthropod eaters to moderate-sized predators on lizards.

Racer, Coluber constrictor
Racer (Coluber constrictor)
© 2003 Russell Towle

The Asian Banded Ratsnake reaches the unusual length of at least 2.3 m, and females guard their cluthes. Other prominent Eurasian colubrids include several dozen species of whipsnakes (Coluber)

Eastern Ratsnake, Elaphe alleghaniensis

Eastern Ratsnake (Elaphe alleghaniensis)
© 2004 Jeremiah Easter

Many temperate North American colubrines are large and usually diurnal; they are among the most popular snakes as pets. One clade includes Eastern Pinesnakes and their relatives, as well as various ratsnakes (Bogertophis and Elaphe), all powerful constrictors that feed mainly on mammlas and occasionally on birds.

San Diego Gopher Snake, Pituophis catenifer annectens
San Diego Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer annectens)
© 2008 Andrew Borcher

Most species of ratsnakes and some Gopher Snakes are semiarboreal, whereas Eastern Pinesnakes are decidedly fossorial. All species of Pituophis have a unique cartilaginous keel in front of the glottis; this structure amplifies hissing and enhances their resemblance to venomous rattlesnakes.

Common Kingsnake, Lampropeltis getula
Common Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula)
© 2003 William Flaxington

Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis) are traditionally grouped apart from ratsnakes because of their single anal scale and smooth dorsal scales (their generic name means "bright skin"). The widespread Common Kingsnake occasionally eats pitvipers and is immune to their venom.

The Sonoran Mountain Kingsnake eats lizards, mice, and nestling birds. Oddly enough, this beautiful, long-tailed species is both secretive, often sheltering in rock piles, and sometimes semiarboreal in its hunting and escape behavior. related taxa include scarletsnakes and long-nosed snakes - two groups of burrowing predators on squamates and their eggs.

Glossy Snake, Arizona elegans
Glossy Snake (Arizona elegans)
© 2005 William Flaxington
Glossy snakes and some other nocturnal species can vary pupil shape from roound in darkness to semi-elliptical in bright light.

Baja California Rat Snake, Bogertophis rosaliae
Baja California Rat Snake (Bogertophis rosaliae)
© 2005 William Flaxington
Bogertophis and Elaphe snakes are powerful constrictors that feed mainly on mammals and sometimes on birds.

Scarlet Snake, Cemophora coccinea
Scarlet Snake (Cemophora coccinea
© 2005 William Flaxington

Variable Sand Snake, Chilomeniscus cinctus
Variable Sand Snake (Chilomeniscus cinctus
© 2006 Brad Moon

Sandsnakes and shovel-nosed snakes have countersunk lower jaws, concave bellies, and valvular nostrils that facilitate locomotion under sand.

Western Shovel-nosed Snake, Chionactis occipitalis
Western Shovel-nosed Snake (Chionactis occipitalis)
© 2003 William Flaxington

Shovel-nosed snakes eat primarily roaches and scorpions.

Common Tree Snake, Dendrelaphis punctulata
Common Tree Snake (Dendrelaphis punctulata)
© 2005 Nathan Litjens

The 10 species of bronzebacks are excellent climbers and feed mainly on lizards. Named for iridescence of their dorsal scles, bronzebacks inflate their necks when threatened, exposing bright blue, yellow, or red interscalar skin.

Dendrophidion vinitor
Dendrophidion vinitor
© 2008 Twan Leenders

These neotropical racers are primarily terrestrial and feed mainly on frogs.

Dryadophis dorsalis
Dryadophis dorsalis
© 2008 Twan Leenders

Speckled Racer, Drymobius margaritiferus
Speckled Racer Drymobius margaritiferus
© 2005 Wolfgang Wuster

Sonoran Whipsnake, Masticophis bilineatus
Sonoran Whipsnake Masticophis bilineatus
© 2001 William Flaxington
North american whipsnakes are slender, fast-moving diurnal creatures. Large Masticophis feed on a variety of invertebrates and vertebrates.

Orange-bellied Racer, Mastigodryas melanolomus
Orange-bellied Racer Mastigodryas melanolomus
© 2006 Nathan Nazdrowicz
Some diurnal active tropicl colubrids sleep exposed on vegetatio, thereby escaping ants and other ground-bound predators.

Rough Green Snake, Opheodrys aestivus
Rough Green Snake Opheodrys aestivus
© 2008 Gary W. Sargent
Rough Green Snakes are among early maturing colubrids with low survivorship, young adults with large clutches. They are arboreal predators on caterpillars and crickets.

Saddled Leafnose Snake, Phyllorhynchus browni
Saddled Leafnose Snake Phyllorhynchus browni
© 2005 Jeremiah Easter
Leaf-nosed snakes feed on lizards.

Bullsnake, Pituophis catenifer sayi
Bullsnake Pituophis catenifer sayi
© 2006 Jeremiah Easter

Western Long-nosed Snake, Rhinocheilus lecontei lecontei
Western Long-nosed Snake Rhinocheilus lecontei lecontei
If forcibly restrained, Long-nosed Snakes exude blood from around the eyes, nostrils, and cloaca.
© 2004 Chris Brown

Coast Patch-nosed Snake, Salvadora hexalepis virgultea
Coast Patch-nosed Snake Salvadora hexalepis virgultea
Patch-nosed snakes catch whip-tailed lizards and use their modified snouts to dig for lizard eggs.
© 2005 Jeremiah Easter

Neck-banded Snake, Scaphiodontophis annulatus

Neck-banded Snake Scaphiodontophis annulatus
The neotropical Neck-banded Snake specilizes on skinks, with the aid of folding teeth that prevent the slippery lizards from escaping.
© 2007 Twan Leenders

Green Ratsnake, Senticolis triaspis intermedia

Green Ratsnake Senticolis triaspis intermedia
© 2005 Jeremiah Easter

File-tailed Groundsnake, Sonora aemula

File-tailed Groundsnake Sonora aemula
The File-tailed Groundsnake of northern Mexico is a mimic of New World coralsnakes and has a peculiar spinose tail, perhaps used in burrowing.
John H. Tashjian © 1999 California Academy of Sciences

Tiger Rat Snake, Spilotes pullatus

Tiger Rat Snake Spilotes pullatus
Tiger Rat Snake attain almost 3 m in length and climb tall trees with astonishing skills; they feed on lizards, birds, and mammals as large as squirrels.
© 2006 John White

Stenorrhina degenhardtii

Stenorrhina degenhardtii
© 2007 Twan Leenders

Western Black-headed Snake Tantilla planiceps

Western Black-headed Snake Tantilla planiceps
© 2006 William Flaxington
Black-headed snakes often have two possible functional fangs at the back of each upper jaw. They immobilize centipedes with venom and are immune to bites from their victims.

False Jararaca Xenodon neuwiedi

False Jararaca Xenodon neuwiedi
© 2006 Wolfgang Wuster

Northern Pine Snake melanoleucus melanoleucus

Northern Pine Snake Pituophis melanoleucus melanoleucus
© 2003 John White


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