Classification Of Snakes
Why is the classification of snakes important?
The primary reason for classifying all living things is to give it a standard name that is recognised by the scientific community, biologists,researchers, and naturalists worldwide. These names are usually derived from Latin or Greek.
By naming organisms and placing them in groups with other organsims with similar traits and characteristics helps researchers in understanding a particular group or genus. The scientific name given to an organism is not chosen randomly. In order to understand this, one has to look at the principles of classification.
The first step upon discovering an unknown organism, or a potentially new species, is to find a common anatomical feature that appears to perform the same function as those found on a different species. For example both humans and snakes belong to the phylum Chordata, both have a vertebrae.
The next step is to determine whether the similarities are a result of a common ancestor, or whether the similarity is due to an independent development in the evolutionary process.
Generally speaking, organisms sharing a common ancestor are closely related and are therefore classified into the same categories.
Snakes belong to the Class Reptilia along with crocodilia (crocodiles, alligators etc), Sphenodontia (tuataras of New Zealand), Testudines (tortoises and turtles).
It is quite clear that although they are all cold blooded, there are other notable differences that calls for further subdivision.
Squamata is the Order in which Lizards, amphisbaenids, and snakes are placed, this includes all scaled reptiles.
Once again further subdivision is needed to differentiate snakes from lizards.
All snakes are placed in the Suborder Serpentes. All snakes share the common characteristics separating them from the lizards namely:
Lack of eyelids.
Lack of visible external ears.
Once again further subdivision is needed to place snakes with similar characteristics together. The Suborder is divided into Families, which is divided into Genus, and lastly into the individual species.
We are not all biologists, nor scientists.
So why is the classification of snakes important to the rest of us?
The most significant advantage is Identification.
We all recognise rattlesnakes. We might not all know that it belongs to the Family
, nor that it belongs to the Genus Crotalus, we might not even recognise the Species, but the fact that it has a rattle on the end of its tail is enough to warn us that the snake is venomous and should be given a wide berth.
Similarly, if a snake spreads an impressive hood, it is more likely than not a cobra and should be treated with caution.
The classification of snakes allows us the opportunity to recognise certain snakes based on the specific characteristics which separates one Genus from another.
The following table shows the different Families within the Suborder Serpentes:
Acrochordidae : Wart snakes.
Aniliidae : Pipe snakes.
Anomalepidae : Dawn blind snakes.
Anomochilidae : Dwarf pipe snakes.
Atractaspididae : Stiletto snakes.
Boidae : Boas and Pythons.
Bolyeridae : Burrowing Boas.
Colubridae : Largest family of snakes which includes harmless non venomous snakes with solid teeth and back fanged venomous snakes.
Cylindrophiidae : Asian pipe snakes.
: All members of this group are venomous. These snakes have fixed fangs situated at the front of the mouth.
Leptotyphlopidae : Slenderblind snakes.
Loxocemidae : Only one known species Loxocemus bicolor or Mexican burrowing python.
Tropidophidae : Dwarf boas.
Typhlopidae : Blind snakes.
Uropeltidae : Shield-tail snakes.
: Vipers and pit vipers. All members of this family are venomous and have "front-hinged" fangs.
Xenopeltidae : Sunbeam snakes.
I have taken the Families listed above and divided them further to include each individual Genus within each Family.
Simply choose a Family from the links below and hopefully it will make your understanding of the classification of snakes a lot easier.
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Viperidae family divided into subfamilies,genus and species.
Elapidae family divided into subfamilies,genus and species.
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