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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Subfamily: Colubrinae
Tribe: Lampropeltini
Genus: Pantherophis
Fitzinger, 1843[1]

Pantherophis is a genus of nonvenomous colubrid snakes endemic to North America and Central America, commonly called ratsnakes or rat snakes. All are powerful constrictors and help control rodent populations.

The species of Pantherophis were previously included in the genus Elaphe. However, in 2002 Utiger et al. raised a taxonomic suggestion to resurrect the genus Pantherophis based on mitochondrial DNA evidence suggesting the New World ratsnakes are more closely related to king snakes than to the Old World ratsnakes.[2] This was confirmed by later phylogenetic studies.[3]


The following species are included:[4][5]

Fitzinger designated Pantherophis guttatus as the type species for the genus Pantherophis.


In recent years, there has been some taxonomic controversy over the genus of North American ratsnakes. Based on mitochondrial DNA, Utiger et al. (2002) showed North American rat snakes of the genus Elaphe, along with closely related genera such as Pituophis and Lampropeltis, form a monophyletic group separate from Old World members of the genus. They therefore suggested the resurrection of the available name Pantherophis Fitzinger for all North American taxa (north of Mexico).[6]

In 2008 the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAR) accepted the taxonomic change to Pantherophis.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ [1] Molecular Systemics and Phylogeny of Old and New World Ratsnakes
  3. ^ Pyron RA, & Burbrink FT. 2009. Neogene diversification and taxonomic stability in the snake tribe Lampropeltini (Serpentes: Colubridae). Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 52: 524-529.
  4. ^ a b Crother BI (editor). 2008. Scientific and Standard English Names of Amphibians and Reptiles of North America North of Mexico. SSAR Herpetological Circular 37. 84 pp.PDF at SSAR. Accessed 4 July 2011.
  5. ^ Pantherophis, The Reptile Database
  6. ^ Scotophis obsoleta at The Center for North American Herpetology. Accessed 20 June 2008.

Further reading[edit]

  • Fitzinger L. 1843. Systema Reptilium, Fasciculus Primus, Amblyglossae. Vienna: Braumüller & Seidel. 106 pp. + indices. (Genus Pantherophis, p. 25.)
  • Utiger U, Helfenberger N, Schätti B, Schmidt C, Ruf M, Ziswiler V. 2002. Molecular systematics and phylogeny of Old World and New World ratsnakes, Elaphe Auct., and related genera (Reptilia, Squamata, Colubridae). Russian Journal of Herpetology 9 (2): 105-124.

External links[edit]