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Colubrids: Colubridae - Physical Characteristics

venom snakes species animal

The colubrids (KAHL-yuh-bruhds) make up the largest group of snakes; they include almost 75 percent of all the world's snake species, or types of snakes. These snakes come in many sizes, shapes, and colors. Despite the many differences among the snakes in this family, colubrids share a few features. Most have wide scales on their bellies and, usually, nine large scales on the tops of their heads. Most colubrids also have glands, or groups of cells, behind each eye. These glands squeeze out a mixture of chemicals that, in some species, oozes through enlarged back teeth, known as rear fangs. When a colubrid bites down on a prey animal, this venom, or poison, trickles into the prey animal; the venom slows down, knocks out, or kills the animal, which the colubrid then eats. Unlike the cobras and vipers, whose fast-acting venom can knock out or kill an animal in moments, the colubrids produce venom that is not as strong and usually takes many minutes to work. The boomslangs and a few other species are exceptions to the rule; they have venom powerful enough to kill humans. Antivenin (an-tee-VEH-nuhn), a remedy that neutralizes, or makes ineffective, the poison of the snake, is available to treat the bites.

Colubrid snakes range widely in size, with some species growing to about 6 inches (15.2 centimeters) and others reaching 12 feet (3.7 meters) in length. Depending on the species, males may be larger than females, or females may be larger than males.

Colubrids: Colubridae - Habitat [next]

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