Herpetology/Snakes

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This page is incomplete. It does not cover all important aspects of this subject. Please keep this in mind when reading the page and add relevant information if possible.

This page contains information on snakes on the Herpetology List. For more general information about the event, see Herpetology.

Suborder Serpentes/Ophidia (Snakes)

Serpentes/Ophidia belongs to Order Squamata.

Typhlopidae

NOTE: This family is NOT INCLUDED ON THE 2019 OFFICIAL LIST. Typhlopidae is a family of blind snakes.

Alternate names
Physical appearance Usually small (although some can get up to 0.9 meters). Smooth and shiny, head, body, tail usually the same diameter. Scales overlap a lot, but most other snake scales do not overlap as much. This overlapping system gives the snake protection. The head of Typhlopidae are short with small eyes that are covered by a clear scale. These are used for sensing light more than actual seeing The mouth opens on the underside of the snake instead of the front of the snake. The snout can be round, plat, pointy, hooked, etc. Some can have a bit of flesh sticking out of the snout, used to feel the way in the dark. A rostros scale hangs over the mouth to make a shovel that the snake uses for digging underground.
Life cycle Most Typhlopidae lay eggs (oviparous), but some eggs can hatch inside the mother (ovoviviparous).
Ecology (including habitat and diet) Live underground. Eat termites, ants, worms, and other small invertebrates.
Behavior (including locomotion) When they are dug out of their burrows, the snakes quickly try to bury themselves again. If they are captured, they will wiggle wildly, ooze a bad-smelling material from the vent area, release their body waste, and/or poke the tail spine into the attacker. Any of these actions can cause the attacker to drop the snake. Occasionally, up to twenty individuals from some species of blind snakes coil up together under a stone.
Conservation status and efforts Endangered
Distribution Africa, Asia, the Americas, Australia, and other islands.
Etymology Greek: typhlo=blind-eyed.
Miscellaneous information 10 genera and over 200 species
Picture(s) No pictures have been added as of yet.

Ramphotyphlops (Brahminy blind snake)

NOTE: This genus is NOT INCLUDED ON THE 2019 OFFICIAL LIST.

Alternate names Brahminy blind snakes (only species on the list) can be also known as flowerpot snakes, common blind snakes, island blind snakes, and Hawaiian blind snakes.
Physical appearance The adults are usually 2-4 inches (5.1-10.2 cm) long, but they have been found up to 6 inches (15 cm). The head and tail can look similar. Some factors that distinguish it from other snakes are 1) the head scales are similar to body scales, and 2) the eyes are unclear, as they are small dots underneath the clear head scales. This means that the snake cannot form images, but they can sense light. The body has 14 rows of dorsal scales, and the color can be dark and light grey, a light yellow-beige, purple, or sometimes albino. The tail has a pointed spur at the end.
Life cycle These snakes reproduce through parthenogenesis, which means that the females do not need a male to mate. All specimens collected have been female. They can be oviparous, ovoviviparous, or viviparous. There can be up to 8 offspring per clutch, and they are all female and genetically the same.
Ecology (including habitat and diet) It was introduced to different parts of the world through plants. The snake would hide in a plant pot, which would be taken to a different place, hence the name "Flowerpot snake". The Brahminy blind snake usually live in urban and agricultural areas, where there are ant and termite nests. They can be found under logs, wet leaves, and stones in wet forests, jungles, abandoned buildings, and city gardens. They eat the larvae, eggs, and pupae of ants and termites.
Behavior (including locomotion) They can be lethargic or energetic, and they seek cover to avoid light.
Conservation status and efforts Yet to be classified. No known threats. Extremely widespread distribution. Extremely tolerant of disturbances.
Distribution It lives in Australia, Oceania, Africa, and the Americas.
Etymology Greek, rhamphos=curving beak or bill (possibly referring to the scale on the snout used for digging).
Miscellaneous information
Picture(s) No pictures have been added as of yet.

Family Leptotyphlopidae (blind snakes)

Alternate names Slender blind snakes, Threadsnakes
Physical appearance Most Leptotyphlopidae look like shiny worms. They are usually 15-20 cm long and often weigh less than 0.05 ounces. The eyes are vestigial (hence the name "blind snake") and covered by scales. The upper jaw is not movable, they do not have any teeth, and the mouth opens down instead of forward. However, they have highly flexible dentaries with four or five teeth They have smooth, cycloid, equally sized shiny scales. 14 rows of scales encircling the body. Hyobranchium is Y-shaped and located far behind the head. Left lung and tracheal lung are absent. Some species retain well developed pelvic elements (paired ilia, ischia, pubes, and femurs). Females lack a left oviduct.
Life cycle These snakes are oviparous, and some have been observed showing parental care by the females coiling around their eggs. In subtropical forms, reproduction is highly seasonal with courtship and mating in spring and oviposition in summer. Clutch size is typically between 2-7 eggs, but some species oviposit only one egg and some produce up to 12 or 13. Eggs are generally 0.6-1 inches in length but 0.08-0.16 inches in width. Incubation times are largely unknown. Hatchling size varies within species, ranging from less than 2.4 in to over 4.3 in.
Ecology (including habitat and diet) Habitat: Habitats: deserts, tropical rainforests, dry woodlands, savannas, plantations, boulder-strewn mountain slopes. In these macrohabitats, they are found within a relatively narrow range of microhabitats. They are mostly found in shallow soil, amidst leaf litter or other surface debris, or beneath stones and logs. Their preference of these microhabitats is probably due to their extremely high surface-to-volume ratios, which make regulating body temperature and minimizing evaporative water loss especially challenging.

Diet: They eat soft-bodied invertebrates, primarily ants and termites. They also secrete fluids that fool termites allow them to infiltrate termite nests and eat eggs and larvae. They eat by mandibular raking, in which the front half of the lower jaw is rapidly flexed in and out of the mouth to rake prey into their throat, and it minimizes feeding time and exposure to defense attacks from prey. They use chemoreception to catch prey; once they enter into a termite or ant colony, they go into a feeding frenzy. Some species consume a relatively wide variety of animals, including beetles, caterpillars, centipedes, cockroaches, crickets, fly larvae, harvestmen, millipedes, and spiders.

Ecological Impacts: Texas blind snake (Leptotyphlops dulci) has been found in screech owl nests, as they are brought to the nest by prey- but nests with these snakes have a lower chick mortality rate because the snakes eat parasitic arthropods. Leptotyphlopidae also benefits humans in some areas by keeping ant and termite populations in check.

Behavior (including locomotion) They are fossorial, burrowing snakes, especially in loose soils. They spend most of their lives underground, but they venture aboveground in evening to search for food or mates. When disturbed by potential above ground predators, they attempt to escape into the ground. If this fails, however, they have other defensive strategies: when restrained, they will thrash around violently; if it cannot wiggle free, it will jab its captor with its sharp tail and void the contents of its cloaca; and as a last resort, some species will become rigid and fake death.
Conservation status and efforts No species are listed by the IUCN.
Distribution Tropical distribution; Africa, southwest Asia, southern North America, Central America, West Indies, South America
Etymology (etymology)
Miscellaneous information There are about 90 species in two genera (Leptotyphlops and Rhinoleptis). Considered to be the sister to the clade of Typhlopidae and Anomalepididae. The world's smallest (recorded) snake is in this family (L. carlae).
Picture(s) No pictures have been added as of yet.

Family Boidae

Alternate names
Physical appearance Medium to large snakes- size range is 1.2–25 ft (0.37–7.7 m); 0.2–320+ lb (0.1–145+ kg). Characterized by stout bodies, rigid lower jaw, vestigial pelvic bones with small remnant hind limbs that form spurs on either side of the body, no postfrontal bones or premaxillary teeth, and two lungs of almost equal size (left lung never makes up more than 85% of right lung size). Some species have labial pits (sensory organs that enable the snakes to sense infrared thermal radiation). In most species, the female is larger.
Life cycle All boine snakes and most erycine snakes are viviparous. The Arabian sand boa (E. jayakari), Sahara sand boa (E. muelleri), and Calabar boa (C. reinhardtii) are oviparous.
Ecology (including habitat and diet) Habitat: Can be found in nearly every habitat of snakes except marine habitats. Many sand-boas are well adapted to very hot and dry habitats. Eryx tataricus is found in a very cold climate in southern Mongolia. The viper boa’s range includes one of the rainiest locations on Earth, New Ireland in the Bismarck Archipelago. The range of the boa constrictor includes the Sonoran Desert, Amazon rainforest, Argentina’s temperate grasslands.

Diet: Primarily ambush hunters that consume vertebrate prey. Sand boas lie buried in wait for lizards or small mammals, Amazon tree boas perch in trees over watercourses waiting for birds to fly by, Puerto Rican boas sit high in cave entrances to intercept bats. Many small boas consume lizards, and mammals become increasingly prevalent in a boa’s diet as size increases. Green anacondas kill and occasionally consume humans, but this is not a common occurrence.

Ecological Impacts: In the past, many boa species were considered an important natural resource of indigenous peoples. Some larger boas may be hunted for meat or medicine in some areas, but not commonly. There is some commerce in anaconda or boa constrictor skins, but not a lot. However, boa constrictors, rosy boas, and East African sand boas are among the most commonly kept snake species; thousands are bred and born in captivity every year. As of 2002 all but three or four boid species have been reproduced in captivity.

Behavior (including locomotion) Typically nocturnal but are seen moving or basking during the day. Larger boas defend themselves with cloacal discharge, hissing, striking, and biting. Sand boas are reluctant to bite and instead roll into a tight ball with their heads in the center. Several blunt-tailed sand boa species will then use their tails to mimic their heads. C. bibroni has been seen to flatten the head and the anterior half of the body, much like a cobra. In some species, males will fight (sometimes wrestling and biting) when competing to breed with a female. Male anacondas do not engage in combat; groups of males are sometimes seen simultaneously courting a female.
Conservation status and efforts Rarest boa in the world is Corallus cropanii in southeastern Brazil, probably extinct (last specimen collected 40 years ago). Mona boa (Epicrates monensis) and subspecies is listed as endangered by IUCN. Four species listed as Vulnerable: Jamaican boa (Epicrates subflavus), Dumeril’s boa (Boa dumerili), Madagascar boa (Boa madagascariensis), and the Madagascar tree boa (Boa mandrita).
Distribution South America, Central America, Mexico, southwestern Canada, western United States, and West Indies; southeastern Europe and Asia Minor; sub-Saharan western Africa east to Tanzania, north through Egypt, and Mediterranean coast from Egypt to eastern Morocco; Madagascar and Reunion Island; Arabian Peninsula; southwestern and central Asia; Indian subcontinent and Sri Lanka; Sulawesi, Moluccan Islands; New Guinea; Bismarck Archipelago; and Melanesia east to American Samoa.
Etymology The Old Tupi name for such snakes was mbói, which figures in the etymology of names such as jibóia and boitatá (the Brazilian name for the mythical giant anaconda).
Miscellaneous information 20 genera, 2 subfamilies, more than 40 species
Picture(s) No pictures have been added as of yet.

Genus Charina (rubber boa and rosy boa)

Alternate names (alternate names)
Physical appearance Rubber Boa: One of the smaller boas; adults can be 38 to 84 cm, newborns are typically 19 to 23 cm. Common name derived from loose, wrinkly skin covered in small, smooth, and shiny scales. Colors are tan to dark brown with a lighter ventral surface (sometimes olive-green, yellow, or orange). Newborns often are pink and slightly transparent but darken with age. Rubber boas have small eyes with vertically elliptical pupils and short, blunt heads. They also have short, blunt tails that resemble their heads.

Rosy Boa: Small, attaining a total length of 43 to 86 cm and width about the diameter of a golf ball. Coloration is highly varied. Common name derived from rosy or salmon coloration on belly of coastal SoCal and Baja Mexico species. Most rosy boas instead have a series of dark to orange spots on a light-colored background. Almost all specimens have three longitudinal stripes on their back of varied intervals. They can be orange, maroon, rust, brown, or black, and interspace colors can be gray, yellow, or tan. Their tails are short, tapered, and slightly prehensile with a blunt tip. The head shape is elongated and covered dorsally with small scales (vertically elliptical pupils). 216-245 ventral scutes, 38-52 undivided subcaudals, undivided anal plate, no chin shields. In the mouth, each maxilla has 14 to 20 teeth. Males tend to be smaller, with more prominent anal spurs and slightly longer tails in proportion to the body.

Life cycle Rubber Boa: Viviparous and can have up to 9 young per year. Many will only reproduce every 4 years. Mating occurs shortly after re-emergence from hibernation in the spring. Young are born anywhere from August to November of that year.

Rosy Boa: Viviparous and have about 3 to 8 young per brood. Neonates are 18-36 cm long and basically miniatures of the adults, possibly with more contrasting patterns. In courtship, the male flicks his tongue over the female’s body (she may do the same in return). He then slowly crawls over her and strokes her posterior sides with erected anal spurs. If the female is receptive, she turns her body and elevates her tail; the male inserts his hemipenis. Courtship and mating occur from May through July and gestation requires 103 to 143 days. Females give birth between August and November. Females and males reach sexual maturity at 2 to 3 years and 60 cm or 43-58 cm, respectively. Average captive lifespan ranges from 18 to 22 years.

Ecology (including habitat and diet) Rubber Boa-

Habitat: Diverse habitat types. Grasslands, meadows, chaparrals, deciduous/coniferous forests, high alpine settings. They can be found from sea level to over 10,000 feet. They’re not as tolerant of high temperatures as other snakes but can live in very cold areas. They require habitats with shelter (rocks, logs, leaf litter, burrows) where they spend most of their time.

Diet: Their diet consists mostly of young mammals like shrews, voles, or mice. They try to eat the whole litter if possible and fend off the mother with their tail, which is why individuals will often have extensive tail scarring. They have been known to eat snake eggs, lizard eggs, lizards, young birds, young bats, even other snakes.

Ecological Impacts: Vulnerable to most carnivorous predators due to slow nature and lack of defenses. Threats: other snakes, birds of prey, ravens, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, moles, cats.

Rosy Boa-

Habitat: Dry shrublands, deserts, and near-desert areas. They are found among scattered rocks and boulders or on talus slopes. They prefer south-facing hillsides at elevations from sea level to 2000m, usually near free water (streams).

Diet: A large portion of its diet is made up of pack rats, baby rabbits, deer mice, and kangaroo rats. The rosy boa also eats rodents, nesting birds, lizards, amphibians, and other snakes. They may slowly stalk or ambush their prey, constricting it, killing it, and consuming it.

Ecological Impacts: Potential predators include raccoons, ringtails, weasels, skunks, coyotes, hawks, shrikes, and other snakes. Rosy boas control nesting rodent populations in arid habitats and also serve as hosts for various parasites. They are a keystone species. They are very popular in the pet trade due to their docile nature.

Behavior (including locomotion) Rubber Boa: One of the most docile of the boas, often used to help people overcome fear of snakes. They will never strike or bite a human but they will release a potent musk from their vent if threatened. They are primarily nocturnal and likely crepuscular. During the winter, they hibernate in underground dens. When threatened, they will curl into a ball, bury their head inside, and expose their tail to mimic their head. They are fossorial or semi-fossorial and use existing rodent tunnels or rock fractures. During spring and fall they may be found under surface objects thermoregulating. They are not often found on the surface during summer. (Locomotion: Good climber, burrower, swimmer. Maintains a relatively small home range but may occasionally migrate. Quite slow.)

Rosy Boa: Fossorial or semi-fossorial, spending most of its life concealed under rocks and in crevices. Its activity season follows local weather patterns, but it’s generally dormant in winter. Its activity rate is highest in spring; because of breeding season, they are seeking mates above ground. During hot weather, the rosy boa is mostly nocturnal but becomes crepuscular in late spring and summer. Extremely docile, rolls into a ball when disturbed or releases a potent musk. (Locomotion: Also very slow. Uses rectilinear (caterpillar-like) motion. Good climber.)

Conservation status and efforts Rubber Boa: Listed as Least Concern on IUCN Red List.

Rosy Boa: Listed as Least Concern on IUCN Red List. Bureau of Land Management in California has the species listed as sensitive.

Distribution Rubber Boa: Most northerly of boa species. Distribution covers a large portion of western US (Pacific Coast east to western Utah and Montana, as far south as San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountains east of LA, as far north as southern British Columbia).

Rosy Boa: Found in southwestern US in California and Arizona, and northwest Mexico in Baja California and Sonora.

Etymology Greek word Charina, meaning graceful. Bottae honors Dr. Paolo E. Botta, an Italian ship's surgeon, explorer, and naturalist.
Miscellaneous information Two species: Charina bottae (rubber boa) and Charina trivirgata (rosy boa). Rosy boa was originally under the genus Lichanura. There is a lot of disagreement over whether the southern rubber boa is a species or subspecies.
Picture(s) No pictures have been added as of yet.

Family Colubridae (typically harmless snakes)

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Genus Nerodia (water snakes and salt marsh snakes)

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Genus Storeria (brown snakes and redbelly snakes)

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Genus Thamnophis (garter, ribbon, lined snakes)

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Genus Heterodon (hog-nosed snakes)

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Genus Diadophis (ringneck snakes)

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Genus Coluber (racers)

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Genus Masticophis (coachwhips and whipsnakes)

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Genus Opheodrys (green snakes)

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Genus Elaphe (rat snakes)

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Genus Pituophis (pine, bull and gopher snakes)

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Genus Lampropeltis (king and milk snakes)

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Genus Tantilla (crowned and blackhead snakes)

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Family Elapidae (coral snakes)

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Family Hydrophiidae (sea snakes)

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Family Viperidae (subfamily viperinae) (pit vipers)

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Genus Agkistrodon (copperheads and cottonmouths)

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Genus Sistrurus (massasaugas and pigmy rattlesnakes)

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Genus Crotalus (rattlesnakes)

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