World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article




Temporal range: Oligocene to Recent
Caspian whipsnake, Coluber caspius
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Infraorder: Alethinophidia
Family: Colubridae
Oppel, 1811

The Colubridae (from Latin coluber, snake) are a family of snakes. With 304 genera and 1,938 species, Colubridae is the largest snake family, and includes about two-thirds of all living snake species. The earliest species of the family date back to the Oligocene epoch. Colubrid species are found on every continent except Antarctica.[1]


  • Description 1
  • Classification 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


While most colubrids are not venomous (or have venom that is not known to be harmful to humans) and are mostly harmless, a few groups, such as genus Boiga, can produce medically significant bites, while the boomslang, the twig snakes, and the Asian genus Rhabdophis have caused human fatalities.[1][2] The Colubridae also include the few species of poisonous snakes in the world, notably Rhabdophis tigrinus, the Japanese grass snake or yamakagashi, the difference between poisonous and venomous being that venom requires direct administration (i.e. intravenous injection) and poison can be administered indirectly (i.e. skin contact or ingestion).

Some of the colubrids are described as opisthoglyphous, meaning they have elongated, grooved teeth located in the back of the upper jaw. The opisthoglyphous dentition appears at least twice in the history of snakes.[2] These are unlike those of vipers and elapids, which are located in the front.[1][2]


The Colubridae as traditionally defined are not a natural group, as many are more closely related to other groups, such as elapids, than to each other.[3] This family has classically been a "garbage bin" taxon for snakes that do not fit elsewhere.[4] Additional research will be necessary to sort out the relations within this group.

Subfamily Boodontinae (some of which now treated as subfamily Grayiinae of the new Colubridae, others moved to family Lamprophiidae as subfamilies Lamprophiinae and Pseudaspidinae)

Subfamily Calamariinae

Subfamily Colubrinae – nearly 100 genera

Subfamily Dipsadinae (which some authors rank as family Dipsadidae with subfamilies Dipsadinae and Xenodontinae)

Subfamily Homalopsinae (now family Homalopsidae) – about 10 genera

Subfamily Natricinae (which some authors rank as family Natricidae) - about 30 genera

Subfamily Pareatinae (now family Pareatidae) - three genera

Subfamily Psammophiinae (now a subfamily of Lamprophiidae)

Subfamily Pseudoxenodontinae (which some authors rank as family Pseudoxenodontidae)

Subfamily Pseudoxyrhophiinae (now a subfamily of Lamprophiidae) – about 20 genera

Subfamily Xenodermatinae (now family Xenodermatidae)

Subfamily Xenodontinae (which some authors put in the new Dipsadidae family) – some 55–60 genera

incertae sedis


  1. ^ a b c Bauer, Aaron M. (1998).  
  2. ^ a b c Bruna Azara, C. 1995. Animales venenosos. Vertebrados terrestres venenosos peligrosos para el ser humano en España. Bol. SEA, 11: 32-40
  3. ^ Lawson, R;  
  4. ^ Fry, B.G.; Vidal, N.; van der Weerd, L.; Kochva, E.; Renjifo, C. (2009). "Evolution and diversification of the Toxicofera reptile venom system". Journal of Proteomics 72: 127–136.  

External links

  • Data related to Colubridae at Wikispecies
  • Colubridae at the Reptile Database. Accessed 23 January 2009.
  • Psammophids at Life is Short but Snakes are Long
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.