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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Serpentes (snakes)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Lepidosauromorpha > Lepidosauria > Squamata

Snakes are legless carnivorous reptiles which lack eye lids and external ears. They have loosely attached jaws which enable them to swallow prey larger than the size of their heads. Very often they only have one lung and all other organs lie one behind the other. A large portion of snakes are non venomous, however there are several whose venom is lethal to humans.

Families native to southern Africa

Atractaspididae (African burrowing snakes)


Xenocalamus bicolour (Bicoloured Quill-snouted snake)

Boidae (pythons & boas)

Python is the only genus represented in southern Africa, with two species.

Python natalensis (South African python, Natal rock python)

Colubridae (typical snakes)


Elapidae (mambas, cobras and relatives)


Leptotyphlopidae (thread snakes)

One genus: Leptotyphlops


Typhlopidae (blind snakes)


Rhinotyphlops schlegelii (Schlegel's beaked blind snake)

Viperidae (night adders, adders and vipers)




The pages in Biodiversity Explorer on snakes have mainly been developed by Ross Soller.