Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory


Regional Maps

Family COLUBRIDAE Oppel, 1811

Compiler and date details

May 2012 - Paul Horner, Queensland


The most speciose group of snakes in the world, containing approximately 1,600 species in 300 genera, of which only 12 species in 9 genera occur in Australia. The family contains species with solid teeth and lacking venom glands and species with grooved rear maxillary teeth and venom glands. The family is represented on all continents; in Australia two subfamilies are represented: the Colubrinae and Homalopsinae.

The taxonomic limits of this family are subject to widely differing interpretations, with little agreement among specialists. The family Colubridae is used in this volume in its traditional sense to exclude those related colubroid groups treated as full families: Acrochordidae, Elapidae, Hydrophiidae and Laticaudidae. The relationships within and between these groups are the subject of considerable current research. The very detailed classification proposed by Smith, Smith & Sawin (1977) without supporting data remains to be critically evaluated.

Recent molecular work demonstrates that the Colubridae are paraphyletic (see Vidal et al. 2007 — "… snakes are placed in the taxon Caenophidia (advanced snakes), a group that includes the families Acrochordidae, Viperidae, Elapidae, Atractaspididae, and the paraphyletic ‘Colubridae’.")



Characterised in Australia by: more or less cylindrical tail; a single row of enlarged ventral scales; fewer than 30 mid-body scale rows; loreal shield(s) present or, if absent, 23 or more mid-body scale rows and a divided anal scale.


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
01-Feb-2017 SERPENTES 27-Jan-2017 MODIFIED
01-Feb-2017 09-May-2012 MODIFIED
08-Mar-2011 08-Mar-2011 MODIFIED
12-Feb-2010 (import)