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|Scarlet kingsnake (Lampropeltis elapsoides)|
Ablabes, Anguis, Bellophis, Calamaria, Coronella, Herpetodryas, Natrix, Ophibolus, Osceola, Phibolus, Pseudelaps, Zacholus
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
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. 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.
The "king" in the name (as with the king cobra) references its eating of other snakes.
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.
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.
Kingsnakes are commonly kept as pets, due to their ease of care; they are overall hardy and simple to care for. In captivity their prey is usually frozen mice of an appropriate size to avoid harm to the animal. A kingsnake’s personality is usually docile and quite tame and will only become aggressive if threatened.
Species and subspecies
Kingsnake species include:
- Gray-banded kingsnake, Lampropeltis alterna (A.E. Brown, 1901)
- Lampropeltis calligaster (Harlan, 1827)
- Common kingsnake, Lampropeltis getula (Linnaeus, 1766)
- California kingsnake, L. g. californiae (Blainville, 1835)
- Florida kingsnake, L. g. floridana (Blanchard, 1919)
- Brooks' kingsnake, L. g. brooksi (Brooks, unknown year)
- Eastern kingsnake, L. g. getula (Linnaeus, 1766)
- Apalachicola kingsnake, L. g. meansi Krysko & Judd, 2006
- Speckled kingsnake, L. g. holbrooki Stejneger, 1902
- Western black kingsnake, L. g. nigrita Zweifel & Norris, 1955
- Baja Cape kingsnake, "L. g. nitida"
- Desert kingsnake, L. g. splendida (Baird & Girard, 1853)
- Isla Santa Catalina kingsnake L. "getula" catalinensis (Van Denburgh & Slevin, 1921)
- Lampropeltis mexicana (Garman, 1884)
- Black kingsnake, Lampropeltis nigra (Yarrow, 1882)
- Lampropeltis pyromelana (Cope, 1866)
- Ruthven's kingsnake, Lampropeltis ruthveni (Blanchard, 1920)
- Lampropeltis triangulum (Lacépède, 1789) (see: milk snake)
- Scarlet kingsnake, Lampropeltis elapsoides (Holbrook, 1838)
- Lampropeltis webbi Bryson, Dixon & Lazcano, 2005
- Lampropeltis zonata (Lockington, 1876 ex Blainville, 1835)
- San Pedro kingsnake, L. z. agalma (Van Denburgh & Slevin, 1923)
- Todos Santos Island kingsnake, L. z. herrerae (Van Denburgh & Slevin, 1923)
- Sierra mountain kingsnake, L. z. multicincta (Yarrow, 1882)
- Coast Mountain kingsnake, L. z. multifasciata (Bocourt, 1886)
- San Bernardino Mountain kingsnake, L. z. parvirubra Zweifel, 1952
- San Diego mountain kingsnake, L. z. pulchra Zweifel, 1952
- St. Helena Mountain kingsnake, L. z. zonata (Lockington, 1876 ex Blainville, 1835)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- Genus Lampropeltis at The Reptile Database
- 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.
- Hubbs, Brian. (2009). Common Kingsnakes. Tricolor Books, Tempe, Arizona.
- kingsnake Care Sheets and Photos
- Desert USA: Common Kingsnake
- Caring for a Common Kingsnake
- Common Kingsnake - Lampropeltis getula Species account from the Iowa Reptile and Amphibian Field Guide
- Kingsnake eating a garter snake
- King Snake Care Sheet
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