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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 06, 2021

Check Out These Ssseriously Cool Colubrid Snake Facts

Amazing colubrid snake facts for kids

Colubrids are the most common species of snakes in the world. The name of this family is derived through the Latin word coluber, which means snake. They belong to the largest and most diverse family of snakes called Colubridae. Scientifically also known as Serpentes, colubrids are rear-fanged or opisthoglyphous, meaning their fangs are grooved rather than hollow and are placed in the back of their upper jaws. Species of colubrids in the past were not closely related or considered as a natural group. Prior to serpentology studies, research in molecular phylogenetics, and evolution, they were known as Colubroids because they were not related to other groups, e.g. elapids. However, recent studies and research in molecular phylogenetics and evolution have classified the previously known colubrids and the snake family as a monophyletic clade. Colubridae currently has eight subfamilies. The Sibynophiinae subfamily, Pseudoxenodontinae subfamily and Grayiinae subfamily are the ones with the smallest groups (one to two genera), whereas the Colubrinae subfamily, Dispadinae subfamily and Natricinae subfamily have the largest groups (37-100 genera). Colubrid snake distribution occurs worldwide from  Africa, Asia, Central America, Eurasia, Europe, North America, Oceania, South America to the central regions of Australia. Colubridae snakes are found in every continent except Antarctica.

Most colubrids are not venomous, or their venom is harmless to humans. Only a few snakes of this family can produce medically significant injuries, e.g. only the boomslang and rhabdophis from the family have caused human fatalities. They also help maintain the balance in our ecosystem by controlling prey populations such as rodents, lizards, and rats. They also serve as food for other animals and predators such as crocodiles and larger snakes.

Read on to discover more, and learn about some other reptile facts from our sea snake and rattlesnake pages.

Colubrid Snake Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Colubrid snake?

Colubrid species belong to the snake family Colubridae. It was classified as a new family because the species were not related to other groups such as the elapids, nor were the species closely related to each other. They belong to the kingdom Animalia, the phylum Chordata, and the order Squamata.

What class of animal does a Colubrid snake belong to?

Colubrid snakes belong to the Reptilia class of animals.

How many Colubrid snakes are there in the world?

Over 70% of the worlds' snakes belong to the Colubridae family. They have a subfamily with over 93 genera and another subfamily with 100 genera and eight subfamilies in total. Colubridae is the largest and most diverse snake family in comparison to the other snake families.

Where does a Colubrid snake live?

Colubridae or colubrids live all over Africa, Asia, Central America, Eurasia, Europe, North America, Oceania, and South America.

What is a Colubrid snake's habitat?

The Colubrid snake habitat includes tropical regions with cool climatic conditions, wetlands, swamps.  Most of them prefer living in tropical regions but some are found in colder regions as well.

Who do Colubrid snakes live with?

The snakes of the reptile family Colubridae are solitary in nature and live alone. However, they come together with other snakes for a limited period of time during the mating season.

How long does a Colubrid snake live?

A Colubrid snakes' life span varies according to its species. They can live for 6-30 years. The snake to have the longest life span is located in Missouri and is 62 years old.

How do they reproduce?

Snakes reproduce through the process of internal fertilization. While mating, most of them intertwine their bodies with their partners. When the male releases the sperm, the female can choose not to get pregnant right away and store the sperm for two to five years before fertilization! Larger females are often surrounded by smaller males during the mating season, this behavior is termed as the 'breeding ball'. Males are very competitive and aggressive towards each other, so they often get into fights or combats to showcase their physical dominance and to impress a female nearby. Colubrids are oviparous, which means they lay eggs.

What is their conservation status?

Colubrids have several species. Among them, one species is Extinct, six species are said to be Critically Endangered and on the verge of being extinct, four species are Near Threatened, eight species are Vulnerable and 10 are Data Deficient.

Colubrid Snake Fun Facts

What do Colubrid snakes look like?

The physical characteristics of Colubrids vary on a large scale as there are numerous species belonging to the large reptile family, Colubridae. There are over 1,000 snake species in the Colubridae family and they all have different sizes, lengths, colors, and weights. However, they do have some common features. The majority of the species have large scales covering their bellies, their heads have smaller and fewer scales, thin necks, highly flexible jaws, and elongated bodies, e.g. the corn snake.

Snakes like the Caspian Whipsnake, have a number of different features than most. They have smooth and larger scales running all over their body including the head. They have round pupils and thick necks and the center color of the scales is slightly lighter compared to the rest of its body. The dorsal side features gray-black and brown marking whereas the ventral side is pale yellow or white. Unlike the Caspian Whipsnake, Common Garters are small, thin, have colorful stripes all over their body and they come in a wide range of colors such as green, brown, red, yellow, and blue.

Fun facts about the colubrid snakes that will amaze you.

How cute are they?

Well, they're not cute, they look fierce and vicious. They are often used to portray betrayal, lies, and evil. However, some with bigger eyes, round heads, or even infants and can be considered cute.

How do they communicate?

Colubrids use their highly-developed vomeronasal system to communicate with other snakes. It is an accessory olfactory, generally found in reptiles and amphibians. Snakes analyze chemical cues in their surroundings via sense, taste, smell, and the vomeronasal system. The primary component to the vomeronasal system is called the Jacobson's organ, situated at the roof of the mouth, it has two openings, one for each of the bifurcated tongue. The tongue when flicked collects chemical trails from the surroundings and analyzes them with the help of the Jacobson's organ. The two openings help determine which side or direction the odor is coming from (left or right). The vomeronasal system is also used to track down prey.

Snakes leave a trail of chemical cues called pheromones. Analysis of this particular chemical is very important, as it allows the snakes to communicate their gender, reproductive condition. Garter snakes tend to confuse other males by leaving a trail of female pheromones during the mating season in order to confuse and cut off any competition. Male species are very competitive and unsympathetic towards each other. Thus, to communicate their dominance they engage in combat. This behavior is encouraged even more during the mating season, especially if a female s nearby.

Even though snakes do not have ears and are deaf, some scientists speculate that hissing or growling are possible ways to communicate.

How big is a Colubrid snake?

The Colubrid snake size varies according to its species. They range from 24.1-70.8 in (60-180 cm) long and 1-2.2 yd (1-2.1 m) in height. Since Colubrids differ in size they can be twice as big as a baby crocodile or the size of a full-grown chameleon. Bullsnakes and Indigo snakes are the biggest colubrids.

How fast can a Colubrid snake move?

Colubrids are considered one of the fastest species of snakes. Some can travel at an astonishing speed of  3.5 mph (5.6 kph) such as the racers, rat snakes, ring-necked snakes, and hog-nosed snakes. They also have fast reflexes and are great swimmers!

How much does a Colubrid snake weigh?

Depending on the various snake species, colubrids weigh approximately 3.31-31.74 oz (94-900 g).

What are the male and female names of the species?

The gender of Colubrids and other species of snakes do not have separate names for their males and females. Therefore, the species are denoted just as male and female.

What would you call a baby Colubrid snake?

Baby colubrids are called neonates or snakelets.

What do they eat?

Colubrids are carnivores and feed on other animals. Depending on the species, Colubrids hunt by chasing their prey or waiting for the perfect time to ambush it. The Colubrid snake diet includes frogs, earthworms, toads. They usually eat insects, fish, rabbits, birds, eggs. Due to some of the physical characteristics and lack of teeth, they first chew on their prey before biting and swallowing it. Some Colubrids prey on venomous reptiles and smaller members of their families as well e.g. Garter snakes.

Are they poisonous?

They are venomous to a certain level. However, they are not considered harmful or poisonous as they have barely caused human fatalities.

An animal is considered to be poisonous if they are toxic to touch or eat. Since Colubrids are neither toxic to eat or to touch they are not considered poisonous. In fact, in certain regions of North America eating snakes is very common and is said to be a good source of protein. It may not sound appetizing but they are staple foods in many cultures worldwide. They beat the traditional red meats in fat content, calorie count, and protein levels! The taste and texture of their meat are compared to chicken and frog legs.

Would they make a good pet?

Yes, Colubrids and snakes, in general, are docile, peaceful, and fairly social animals. Colubrid species prefer warm and cool climates, and they like to be held for the same reasons. While shedding they get frustrated and prefer to not be held and left alone. They cannot survive in extreme climatic conditions, so keep them as pets only if you live in suitable climatic regions.  Feeding them is easy as their diet includes bugs, spiders, earthworms, bird meat, red meats, eggs. Cornsnakes and Kingsnakes in particular are very popular to keep as pets.

Did you know...

Hind limbs are completely absent in Colubridae snakes! These snakes have fewer teeth, therefore they have to chew on their prey before biting it with their rear fangs. Some Colubrids eat venomous snakes as well.

Without further research in molecular phylogenetics and evolution, the family of these snakes would not have a fixed classification and would still be termed as 'wastebasket taxon' (a term used by taxonomists to classify organisms that do fit anywhere). Early Colubrids species date back to the Oligocene epoch i.e. about 33.9 million-23 million years before the present!

While shedding snakes are temporarily blinded and wait until their old skin splits from their head.

Every year 5.4 million people are bitten by snakes, with up to 2.7 million envenomings.

What makes a snake a Colubrid?

Snakes from the Colubridae family are characterized by physical differences such as the absence of hind limbs, lack of teeth, rear fangs, significant reduction of the left lung, the elongated body covered with large scales with fewer and smaller scales on the head. The colors, patterns, and sizes vary according to their species e.g. brown tree snake, garter snake, bull snake. But most importantly Colubrids are non-venomous or considered harmless to humans. A bite from them would not produce serious injuries. They are also not as aggressive as the Elapidae or Viperidae family. They are oviparous and lay eggs, whereas rattlesnakes, vipers, boa. give birth to live offsprings. Rattlesnakes are ovoviviparous, which means that the eggs developed by the female, retains inside her body at birth to produce live offspring.

Are Colubrid snakes venomous?

Technically, yes Colubrids are venomous but their venom is considered to be harmless to humans. Only a few species from this family have the ability to produce medically significant injuries like the twig snakes.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fun reptile facts from our Burmese Python and King Cobra pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Colubrid snake coloring pages.

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