10 recognized species, see article.
The 10 recognized species within the genus Mehelya are:
- Mehelya capensis (A. Smith, 1847) - Cape file snake
- Mehelya crossi (Boulenger, 1895) - Crosse's file snake
- Mehelya egbensis Dunger, 1966 - Dunger's file snake
- Mehelya gabouensis Trape & Mané, 2005 - Gabou file snake
- Mehelya guirali (Mocquard, 1887) - Mocquard's file snake
- Mehelya laurenti de Witte, 1959
- Mehelya nyassae (Günther, 1888) - Nyassa file snake
- Mehelya poensis (A. Smith, 1849) - forest file snake
- Mehelya stenopthalmus (Mocquard, 1887) - small-eyed file snake
- Mehelya vernayi Bogert, 1940 - Angolan file snake
They are not large snakes, growing to around 3–4 ft (90–120 cm). Their dorsal scales are most peculiar. Large patches of bare skin are seen, and scales are separated by large gaps. These scales are strongly keeled, giving the snake the feel of a file - hence the common name. Their body shape is triangular in cross section, which has been noted amongst other "cannibalistic" snakes, and may also provide some sort of benefit for them within their burrowing lifestyle.
They generally occupy more humid regions, but are found in hotter desert areas, too.
File snakes are, by nature, burrowers. They will occupy old, abandoned burrows of rodents where they shelter from the heat in the relative coolness underground. They are also adept at burrowing for themselves, their flattened head aiding them to push their way through the earth and leaf litter. This genus is nocturnal, becoming active at night to hunt prey – other reptiles.
The genus Mehelya feeds mainly on snakes and small lizards, such as geckos. Like many genera that feed solely on snakes, it has developed a triangular body shape as opposed to the plump, rounded body of other snakes.
- Kelly, C.M.R., et al. 2010. Molecular systematics of the African snake family Lamprophiidae Fitzinger, 1843 (Serpentes: Elapoidea), with particular focus on the genera Lamprophis Fitzinger 1843 and Mehelya Csiki 1903. Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 58 (3): 415-426.
- The Reptile Database. www.reptile-database.org.
- "Mehelya (Genus)". Zipcodezoo.com. 2010-01-24. Retrieved 2010-03-29.