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|Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus)|
Rat snakes are medium to large constrictors found through a great portion of the Northern Hemisphere. They feed primarily on rodents and birds. With some species exceeding 3 m (10 ft) in total length, they can occupy top levels of some food chains. Many species make attractive and docile pets and one, the corn snake, is one of the most popular reptile pets in the world. Other species can be very skittish and sometimes aggressive, but bites are rarely serious. Like nearly all colubrids, rat snakes pose no threat to humans. Rat snakes were long thought to be completely nonvenomous, but recent studies have shown that some Old World species do possess small amounts of venom (so small as to be negligible to humans).
Previously, most rat snakes were assigned to the genus Elaphe, but many have been since renamed following mitochondrial DNA analysis performed in 2002. For the purpose of this article, names will be harmonized with the TIGR Database[clarification needed].
- Philippine rat snake, Coelognathus erythrurus (A.M.C. Duméril, Bibron & A.H.A. Duméril, 1854)
- Black copper rat snake or yellow striped snake, Coelognathus flavolineatus (Schlegel, 1837)
- Trinket snake, Coelognathus helena (Daudin, 1803)
- Copperhead rat snake, Coelognathus radiata (F. Boie, 1827)
- Indonesian rat snake, Coelognathus subradiata (Schlegel, 1837)
- Twin-spotted rat snake, Elaphe bimaculata Schmidt, 1925
- King rat snake, Elaphe carinata (Günther, 1864)
- Japanese rat snake, Elaphe climacophora (H. Boie, 1826)
- David's rat snake, Elaphe davidi (Sauvage, 1884)
- Dione rat snake, Elaphe dione (Pallas, 1773)
- Japanese four-lined rat snake, Elaphe quadrivirgata (H. Boie, 1826)
- Four-lined snake, Elaphe quatuorlineata (Lacépède, 1789)
- Red-backed rat snake, Elaphe rufodorsata (Cantor, 1842)
- Eastern four-lined snake, Elaphe sauromates (Pallas, 1811)
- Russian rat snake, Elaphe schrenckii Strauch, 1873
- Japanese forest rat snake, Euprepiophis conspicillatus (H. Boie, 1826)
- Mandarin rat snake, Euprepiophis mandarinus (Cantor, 1842)
- Green trinket snake, Gonyosoma frenatum (Gray, 1853)
- Celebes black-tailed rat snake, Gonyosoma jansenii (Bleeker, 1858)
- Red-tailed green rat snake, Gonyosoma oxycephalum (F. Boie, 1827)
- Mountain rat snake, Oreocryptophis porphyracea (Cantor, 1839)
- Cantor's rat snake, Orthriophis cantoris (Boulenger, 1894)
- Hodgson's rat snake, Orthriophis hodgsoni (Günther, 1860)
- 100 flower rat snake, Orthriophis moellendorffi (Boettger, 1886)
- Beauty snake, Orthriophis taeniurus (Cope, 1861)
- Keeled rat snake, Ptyas carinata (Günther, 1858)
- Ptyas dhumnades (Cantor, 1842)
- Sulawesi black racer, Ptyas dipsas (Schlegel, 1837)
- White-bellied rat snake, Ptyas fusca (Günther, 1858)
- Chinese rat snake, Ptyas korros (Schlegel, 1837)
- Ptyas luzonensis (Günther, 1873)
- Oriental rat snake, Ptyas mucosus (Linnaeus, 1758)
- Green rat snake, Ptyas nigromarginatus (Blyth, 1854)
- Green bush snake, Rhadinophis prasina (Blyth, 1854)
- Rhinoceros ratsnake, Rhynchophis boulengeri Mocquard, 1897
- Transcaucasian rat snake, Zamenis hohenackeri (Strauch, 1873)
- Italian Aesculapian snake, Zamenis lineatus (Camerano, 1891)
- Aesculapian snake, Zamenis longissimus (Laurenti, 1768)
- Persian rat snake, Zamenis persicus (F. Werner, 1913)
- Leopard snake, Zamenis situla (Linnaeus, 1758)
- Baja California ratsnake, Bogertophis rosaliae (Mocquard, 1899)
- Trans-Pecos ratsnake, Bogertophis subocularis (Brown, 1901)
- Eastern ratsnake, Pantherophis alleghaniensis (Holbrook, 1836)
- Baird's ratsnake, Pantherophis bairdi (Yarrow, 1880)
- Great Plains ratsnake, Pantherophis emoryi (Baird & Girard, 1853)
- Eastern foxsnake, Pantherophis gloydi (Conant, 1940)
- Cornsnake, Pantherophis guttatus (Linnaeus, 1766)
- Texas ratsnake, Pantherophis obsoletus (Say, 1823)
- Gray ratsnake, Pantherophis spiloides (A.M.C. Duméril, Bibron & A.H.A. Duméril, 1854)
- Western foxsnake, Pantherophis vulpinus (Baird & Girard, 1853)
- Mexican ratsnake, Pseudelaphe flavirufa (Cope, 1867)
- Green ratsnake, Senticolis triaspis (Cope, 1866)
- Chicken snake or yellow rat snake, Spilotes pullatus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Nota bene: In the above species lists, an authority's name in parentheses indicates that the species was originally described in a different genus. An authority's name not in parentheses indicates that the species is still assigned to the original genus in which it was described.
In recent years, some taxonomic controversy has occurred over the genus of North American rat snakes. Based on mitochondrial DNA, Utiger et al. (2002) showed that 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). Crother et al. (2008) accepted the taxonomic change to Pantherophis.
Rat snakes are commonly kept as pets by reptile enthusiasts. The corn snake, one of the most popular pet reptiles, belongs to the rat snake family. New World species are generally thought to be more docile in captivity as opposed to Old World rat snakes, of which the opposite is assumed.
- Utiger, U., Helfenberger, N., Schätti, B., Schmidt, C., Ruf, M., & Ziswiler, V. (2002). "Molecular systematics and phylogeny of Old and New World ratsnakes, Elaphe auct., and related genera (Reptilia, Squamata, Colubridae)" (PDF). Russian Journal of Herpetology 9 (2): 105–124.
- Elaphe obsoleta at The Center for North American Herpetology. Accessed 20 June 2008.
- Crother BI, et al. (2008) Scientific and Standard English Names of Amphibians and Reptiles of North America North of Mexico: 6th edition. Herp. Rev. 37, pp. 58–59. or see pp. 64 ff in the 7th edition.