Kingsnake

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For the DC Comics supervillain, see King Snake.
Kingsnakes
Lampropeltis elapsoides.jpg
Scarlet kingsnake (Lampropeltis elapsoides)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Subfamily: Colubrinae
Tribe: Lampropeltini
Genus: Lampropeltis
Fitzinger, 1843
Synonyms

Ablabes, Anguis, Bellophis, Calamaria, Coronella, Herpetodryas, Natrix, Ophibolus, Osceola, Phibolus, Pseudelaps, Zacholus[1]

Kingsnakes are colubrid snakes, members of the genus Lampropeltis, which also includes the milk snake, four other species, and 45 subspecies.

Etymology[edit]

Lampropeltis means "shiny shield" (from Greek λαμπρος, "shine" + πελτα, "small shield"), a name given to them in reference to their smooth dorsal scales.

Behavior & diet[edit]

Kingsnakes use constriction to kill their prey and tend to be opportunistic when it comes to their diet; they will eat other snakes (ophiophagy), including venomous snakes. Kingsnakes will also eat lizards, rodents, birds, and eggs.[2] The common kingsnake is known to be immune to the venom of other snakes and to eat rattlesnakes, but it is not necessarily immune to the venom of snakes from different localities.[2]

The "king" in the name (as with the king cobra) references its eating of other snakes.

Description[edit]

The majority of kingsnakes have quite vibrant patterns on their skins. Some species of kingsnake, such as the scarlet kingsnake, have coloration and patterning that can cause them to be confused with the venomous coral snakes.

One of the mnemonic rhymes to help people distinguish between the coral snake and its nonvenomous look-alikes in the United States is "Red on black, friend of Jack; Red on yellow, kill a fellow."(for more, see milk snake) However, this reliably applies only to coral snakes native to North America: Micrurus fulvius (Eastern or common coral snake), Micrurus tener (Texas coral snake), and Micruroides euryxanthus (Arizona coral snake), found in the southern and western United States. Coral snakes found in other parts of the world can have distinctly different patterns, have red bands touching black bands, have only pink and blue banding, or have no banding at all.

Taxonomy[edit]

Taxonomic reclassification is an ongoing process, and different sources often disagree, granting full species status to a group of these snakes that another source considers a subspecies. In the case of Lampropeltis catalinensis, for example, only a single specimen exists, so classification is not necessarily finite. In addition, hybridization between species with overlapping geographic ranges is not uncommon, confusing taxonomists further.

Captivity[edit]

Kingsnakes are commonly kept as pets, due to their ease of care; they are overall hardy and simple to care for. Their captive diet usually consists of appropriately sized prey. Kingsnakes are generally docile, curious and gentle, unless they are disturbed.

Species and subspecies[edit]

Mole kingsnake (Lampropeltis calligaster rhombomaculata)
California kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula californiae)
Eastern kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula getula)

Kingsnake species include:[3]

Speckled king snake (Lampropeltis getula holbrooki)

Additionally, Pyron and Burbrink have argued that the short-tailed snake, more familiar as Stilosoma extenuatum, should be included with Lampropeltis.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wright, A.H., and A.A. Wright. (1957). Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada. Comstock. Ithaca and London. 1,105 pp. (in 2 volumes) (Genus Lampropeltis, p. 330.)
  2. ^ a b Conant, R. (1975). A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Second Edition. Houghton Mifflin. Boston. 429 pp.
    ISBN 0-395-19977-8 (paperback). (Genus Lampropeltis, p. 201.)
  3. ^ Genus Lampropeltis at The Reptile Database
  4. ^ Pyron, R. Alexander; Frank T. Burbrink. (2009). Neogene diversification and taxonomic stability in the snake tribe Lampropeltini (Serpentes: Colubridae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 52(2):524-529.
  1. Hubbs, Brian. (2009). Common Kingsnakes. Tricolor Books, Tempe, Arizona.

External links[edit]