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Colubroidea

This huge group of snakes contains almost 3,000 species (over 80% all extant snake species). It contains six families: Colubridae (1866 species); Lamprophiidae (314 species); Elapidae (359 species); Homalopsidae (53 species); Viperidae (341 species); and Pareidae (20 species). A seventh family, Xenodermidae (18 species) has traditionally been considered part of Colubroidea, but might be more closely related to Acrochordoidea.

Colubroidea contains many familiar and obscure snakes. There is some uncertainty about the relationships of the major clades within Colubroidea, although recent work has clarified and refined traditional relationships based on tooth morphology. Specifially, species with fixed fangs were placed into Elapidae, those with folding fangs were placed into Viperidae, and those without fangs were lumped into Colubridae. We now understand that both elapids and viperids evolved from rear-fanged ancestors, and that not all fangless or rear-fanged colubroids are each other's closest relatives.

Many (but not all) species of Colubroidea have venom, excellent color vision, spines on their hemipenes, and sophisticated chemosensory ability, prey acquisition ability, and antipredator tactics. Colubroidean snakes have lost all vestiges of their limbs and girdles.

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© Andrew Durso

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