Colubrids (Colubridae)

Colubridae is the largest family of snakes, containing over 2,000 species, which is more than half the total snake population in the world. Commonly known as colubrids, most of these snakes are non-venomous, but some species, like the boomslang, possess deadly venom capable of killing humans. Snakes in the colubrid genus Boiga can inflict painful bites that need medical attention.

This family’s first members were recorded in the Oligocene epoch, which means around 33.9 million to 23 million years ago. Now, these species are distributed throughout the world, except in Antarctica.

Scientific Classifications

  • Suborder:Serpentes
  • Superfamily:Colubroidea
  • Family:Superfamily:

Common Snakes in the Family

  • Milksnake
  • Hognose snake
  • Corn snake
  • Common garter snake
  • Grass snake
  • Rat snake
  • African house snake
  • Ring-necked snake
  • Common watersnaks
  • Racers
  • King snakes

Venomous

  • Boomslang
  • Cat snakes
  • Keelback snakes
  • Twig snakes or vine snakes

Characteristics

Description

Being such a huge family, there is great diversity in colubrids’ physical appearance and anatomy. Most species have a slender body, with the head only as wide as the body, making it less distinct than other snake families. There are large scales covering the top of the head.

Their length varies from 6 inches to over 8 feet, with most species growing 1-3 feet long.

They don’t have a pelvic girdle, which is one of their primary differences from constrictors.

There is no functional left lung, instead, there is only a sack-like structure.
Many colubrids have a special teeth structure where they have long, grooved teeth located high in their upper jaw, referred to as ‘rear fangs’. Two glands behind the eyes (Duvernoy’s gland) produce certain chemicals released through the rear fangs. According to experts, this might be what the fangs of elapids and vipers have evolved from.

Diet

Like their appearance, their diet varies greatly as well, ranging from small insects and worms to rodents, lizards, birds, and even other snakes. However, there are two genera in the family, the Dasypeltis and Elachistodon (Indian egg-eaters) containing snakes that only feed on eggs of other animals and birds. They usually swallow whole eggs and use their rear fangs to break open the shells.

Subfamilies and Genera

The colubrids are further classified into eight subfamilies, which are again classified into around 250 genera. Many of these genera are monotypic, meaning they contain a single species.

Originally, Colubridae was a category used to classify snakes that didn’t fit in the Viperidae, Elapidae, or any other established family. Even now, experts believe it needs to be broken down into smaller families with a closer relationship with each other.

Here are the subfamilies currently included in the colubrid family:

Hinged-teeth snakes (Sibynophiinae)

  • Scaphiodontophis (Neotropical neckband snakes)
  • Sibynophis (Asian black-headed snakes)

Natricinae (Includes the keelbacks)

  • Amphiesmoides (Monotypic species: Werner’s ornate snake)
  • Anoplohydrus (Monotypic species: Anoplohydrus aemulans)
  • Afronatrix (Monotypic species: African brown water snake)
  • Aspidura (Rough-sided snakes)
  • Amphiesma (Monotypic species: Buff striped keelback)
  • Adelophis
  • Atretium
  • Blythia
  • Clonophis (Monotypic species: Kirtland’s snake)
  • Fowlea
  • Hebius
  • Haldea (Monotypic species: Rough earth snake)
  • Helophis (Monotypic species: Schouteden’s sun snake)
  • Hydrablabes
  • Hydraethiops
  • Herpetoreas
  • Isanophis (Monotypic species: Boomsong’s stream snake)
  • Iguanognathus (Monotypic species: Spatula-toothed snake)
  • Liodytes
  • Limnophis
  • Grass snakes (NatrixII)
  • Natriciteres
  • Water snakes (Nerodia)
  • Opisthotropis
  • Pseudagkistrodon (Monotypic species: Red keelback/false habu)
  • Paratapinophis (Monotypic species: Angel’s mountain keelback)
  • Crayfish snakes (Regina)
  • Rhabdops
  • Keelback snakes (Rhabdophis)
  • Redbelly snakes (Storeria)
  • Smithophis
  • Garter snakes (Thamnophis)
  • Tropidonophis
  • Slender snakes/worm-eating snakes (Trachischium)
  • Tropidoclonion (Monotypic species: Lined snake)
  • Trimerodytes
  • Virginia (Monotypic species: Smooth earth snake)
  • Xenochrophis

Pseudoxenodontinae

  • Plagiopholis
  • False cobras (Pseudoxenodon)

Pseudoxenodon

  • Adelphicos
  • Racers (Alsophis)
  • Amastridium
  • Amnesteophis (Monotypic species: Amnesteophis melanauchen)
  • Apostolepis
  • Arcanumophis (Monotypic species: The problem ground snake)
  • Island racers/racerlets (Arrhyton)
  • Ground snakes (Atractus)
  • Baliodryas (Monotypic species: Baliodryas steinbachi)
  • Boiruna
  • Borikenophis (Racers)
  • Caaeteboia
  • Calamodontophis
  • Caraiba (Monotypic species: Black and white racer)
  • Worm snakes (Carphophis)
  • Cenaspis (Monotypic species: Cenaspis aenigma)
  • Cercophis (Monotypic species: Schlegel’s golden snake)
  • Chersodromus
  • Chlorosoma
  • Mussurana (Clelia)
  • Black-striped snakes (Coniophanes)
  • Conophis
  • Contia
  • Coronelaps (Monotypic species: Minas Gerais snake)
  • Crisantophis (Monotypic species: Dunn’s road guarder)
  • Cryophis (Monotypic species: Hallberg’s cloud forest snake)
  • Cubophis
  • Diadophis (Monotypic species: Ring-necked snake)
  • Diaphorolepis
  • Snail-eaters (Dipsas)
  • Ditaxodon (Monotypic species: Hensel’s snake)
  • Drepanoides (Monotypic species: Black-collared snake)
  • Echinanthera
  • Elapomorphus
  • Enulius
  • Emmochliophis
  • Enuliophis (Monotypic species: Colombian longtail snake/sock-headed snake)
  • Ivory-naped snakes (Eutrachelophis)
  • Erythrolamprus
  • Farancia (The rainbow snake and the mud snake)
  • Gomesophis (Monotypic species: Brazilian burrowing snake)
  • Latin American earth snakes (Geophis)
  • Helicops
  • Hydrops
  • Haitiophis (Monotypic species: Hispaniola racer)
  • Hydrodynastes
  • Hognose snakes (Heterodon)
  • Hydromorphus
  • Hypsirhynchus
  • Night snakes (Hypsiglena)
  • Blunt-headed vine snakes (Imantodes)
  • Ialtris
  • Incaspis
  • Lioheterophis (Monotypic species: Ihering’s snake)
  • Lygophis
  • Cat-eyed snakes (Leptodeira)
  • Magliophis
  • Mussurana
  • Manolepis (Monotypic species: Ridgehead snake)
  • Nothopsis (Monotypic species: Rough coffee snake)
  • Coffee snakes (Ninia)
  • Oxyrhopus
  • Omoadiphas
  • Paraphimophis (Monotypic species: The Culebra)
  • Phimophis
  • Green snakes (Philodryas)
  • Pliocercus
  • Phalotris
  • Plesiodipsas (Monotypic species: Alemán’s snail-eater)
  • Pseudalsophis
  • Pseudoboa
  • Pseudoeryx
  • Pseudoleptodeira (Monotypic species: False cat-eyed snake)
  • Pseudotomodon (Monotypic species: False tomodon snake)
  • Psomophis
  • Ptychophis (Monotypic species: Fanged water snake)
  • Rhadinophanes (Monotypic species: Graceful mountain snake)
  • Rhadinella
  • Rhachidelus (Monotypic species: Brazilian bird snake)
  • Rhadinaea
  • Rodriguesophis
  • Saphenophis
  • Sibon
  • Siphlophis
  • Sordellina (Monotypic species: Dotted brown snake)
  • Synophis
  • Short-tailed snakes (Tachymenis)
  • Taeniophallus
  • Tantalophis (Monotypic species: Oaxacan cat-eyed snake)
  • Thermophis
  • Thamnodynastes
  • Tropical ground snakes (Trimetopon)
  • Tretanorhinus
  • Tomodon
  • Tropidodryas
  • Tropidodipsas
  • Urotheca
  • Uromacer
  • Xenopholis
  • Xenodon
  • Xenoxybelis

Grayiinae

  • African water snakes (Grayia)

Calamariinae

  • Collorhabdium (Monotypic species: Mountain dwarf snake)
  • Iridescent snakes (Calamorhabdium)
  • Calamaria
  • Etheridgeum (Monotypic species: Sumatra Etheridge snake)
  • Pseudorabdion
  • Macrocalamus
  • Rabdion

Ahaetuliinae

  • Asian vine snakes/Asian whip snakes (Ahaetulla)
  • Flying snake/gliding snake (Chrysopelea)
  • Dryophiops
  • Dendrelaphis (The bronzebacks, and treesnakes)
  • Proahaetulla (Monotypic species: Keeled vine snake)

Colubrinae

  • Archelaphe (Monotypic species: Striped-tailed racer)
  • Aprosdoketophis (Monotypic species: Aprosdoketophis. andreonei)
  • Aeluroglena (Monotypic species: Somali snake)
  • Argyrogena
  • Arizona
  • Cat snakes (Boiga)
  • Bogertophis
  • Bamanophis (Monotypic species: Bamanophis. dorri)
  • Sipos/savanes (Chironius)
  • Colubroelaps (Monotypic species: Nguyenvansang’s snake)
  • Chapinophis (Monotypic species: Chapinophis. xanthocheilus)
  • Cemophora
  • Coluber (Monotypic species: Eastern racers)
  • Coelognathus
  • Conopsis
  • Crotaphopeltis
  • Coronella
  • Dispholidus
  • Neotropical racers (Drymobius)
  • Dasypeltis
  • Forest racers (Dendrophidion)
  • Dipsadoboa
  • Cribos (Drymarchon)
  • Dolichophis
  • Drymoluber
  • Euprepiophis
  • Elaphe
  • Eirenis
  • Hooknose snakes (Ficimia)
  • Gonyosoma
  • Hooknose snakes (Gyalopion)
  • Geagras (Monotypic species: Tehuantepec striped snake)
  • Hemerophis (Monotypic species: Socotran racer)
  • Hapsidophrys
  • Hierophis
  • Hemorrhois
  • Leptodrymus (Monotypic species: Striped lowland snake)
  • Liopeltis
  • Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis)
  • Lytorhynchus
  • Wolf snakes (Lycodon)
  • Parrot snakes (Leptophis)
  • Macroprotodon
  • Coachwhips/whip snakes (Masticophis)
  • Racers (Mastigodryas)
  • Meizodon
  • Mopanveldophis (Monotypic species: M. zebrinus)
  • Muhtarophis (Monotypic species: Amanos dwarf snake)
  • Oligodon (Kukri snakes)
  • Oocatochus (Monotypic species: Chinese garter snake)
  • Opheodrys (Monotypic species: Green snakes)
  • Oreocryptophis (Monotypic species: Black-banded trinket snake)
  • Orientocoluber (Monotypic species: Slender racer)
  • Vine snakes (Oxybelis)
  • Pantherophis
  • Palusophis (Monotypic species: P. bifossatus)
  • Phrynonax
  • Persiophis (Monotypic species: Fahimi’s ground snake)
  • Platyceps
  • Gopher snakes (Pituophis)
  • Philothamnus
  • Phyllorhynchus
  • Rat snakes (Ptyas)
  • Pseudoficimia (Monotypic species: False ficimia)
  • Pseudelaphe
  • Long-nosed snakes (Rhinocheilus)
  • Rhinobothryum
  • Dagger-tooth tree snakes/large-eyed tree snakes (Rhamnophis)
  • Rhynchocalamus
  • Patchnose snakes (Salvadora)
  • Hook-nosed snakes/shovel-nosed snakes (Scaphiophis)
  • Scolecophis (Monotypic species: Black-banded snake)
  • Senticolis (Monotypic species: Green rat snake)
  • Simophis (Monotypic species: São Paulo false coral snake)
  • Ground snakes (Sonora)
  • Spalerosophis
  • Spilotes
  • Stegonotus
  • Stenorrhina
  • Stichophanes (Monotypic species: Ningshaan kukri snake)
  • Symphimus
  • Sympholis (Monotypic species: Mexican short-tail snake)
  • Centipede snakes (Tantilla)
  • Tantillita
  • Old World catsnakes (Telescopus)
  • Bird snakes/twig snakes/vine snakes (Thelotornis)
  • Thrasops
  • Toxicodryas
  • Lyre snakes (Trimorphodon)
  • Wallaceophis (Monotypic species: Wallace’s striped snake)
  • Indian smooth snake/suvaro saap (Wallophis)
  • Xenelaphis
  • Xyelodontophis (Monotypic species: Dagger-tooth vine snake)
  • Zamenis