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Temporal range: Oligocene–Recent [1]
European ratsnake, Zamenis situla
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Subfamily: Colubrinae
Oppel, 1811

Nearly 100, see text

The Colubrinae are a subfamily of the family Colubridae of snakes. It includes numerous genera, and although taxonomic sources often disagree on the exact number, The Reptile Database lists 717 species in 92 genera as of September 2019.[2] It is the second largest subfamily of colubrids, after Dipsadinae.[2] Many of the most commonly known snakes are members of this subfamily, including rat snakes, king snakes, milk snakes, vine snakes, and indigo snakes.[2]

Colubrine snakes are distributed worldwide, with the highest diversity in North America, Asia, northern Africa, and the Middle East. There are relatively few species of colubrine snakes in Europe, South America, Australia, and southern Africa, and none in Madagascar, the Caribbean, or the Pacific Islands.[2][3][4]

Colubrine snakes are extremely morphologically and ecologically diverse. Many are terrestrial, and there are specialized fossorial (e.g. Tantilla) and arboreal (e.g. Oxybelis) groups, but no truly aquatic groups. Some of the most powerful constrictors (e.g. Pantherophis, Pituophis, Lampropeltis) are members of this group, as are a few snakes that have strong enough venom to kill humans (i.e. boomslangs [Dispholidus] and twigsnakes [Thelotornis]).[5][6]

Within Colubrinae, genera and species seem to make up five distinct radiations[7] that are to varying degrees broadly similar in terms of ecology and geographic distribution, although increased sampling is needed to determine whether all species currently placed in Colubrinae fit into one of these groups. These correspond roughly to the historically recognized tribe names Sonorini, Colubrini, Boigini/Lycodontini, Dispholidini, and Lampropeltini.

Coluber is the type genus of both Colubrinae and Colubridae and the basis for the name Colubroidea, and it is one of only three snake genera named by Carl Linnaeus still in use for a snake today.[8][9]


A group of 4 genera historically placed in Colubrinae have recently been called a separate subfamily, Ahaetullinae, in a few analyses.[10] These are Ahaetulla Link, 1807, Chrysopelea Boie, 1827, Dendrelaphis Boulenger, 1890, and Dryophiops Boulenger, 1896.

Sonora semiannulata (groundsnake)
Gonyosoma boulengeri (rhino rat snake)
Boiga dendrophila (mangrove snake)
Dispholidus typus (boomslang)
Coronella austriaca (smooth snake)


  1. ^ "Subfamily Colubrinae Oppel 1811 (colubrid snake)". Fossilworks. Retrieved 17 December 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d Uetz, Peter. "Colubrinae". The Reptile Database. Retrieved 18 September 2019.
  3. ^ Wallach, V. W.; Williams, K. L.; Boundy, J. (2014). Snakes of the World: A Catalogue of Living and Extinct Species. Boca Raton, Florida, USA: CRC Press.
  4. ^ Pough, F. H.; Andrews, R. M.; Crump, M. L.; Savitzky, A. H.; Wells, K. D.; Brandley, M. C. (2016). Herpetology (4th ed.). Sunderland, Massachusetts, USA: Sinauer Associates, Inc.
  5. ^ Pla, D.; Sanz, L.; Whiteley, G.; Wagstaff, S. C.; Harrison, R. A.; Casewell, N. R.; Calvete, J. J. (2017). "What killed Karl Patterson Schmidt? Combined venom gland transcriptomic, venomic and antivenomic analysis of the South African green tree snake (the boomslang), Dispholidus typus". Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - General Subjects. 1861 (4): 814–823. doi:10.1016/j.bbagen.2017.01.020. PMC 5335903. PMID 28130154.
  6. ^ Fry, B. G.; Casewell, N. R.; Wüster, W.; Vidal, N.; Young, B.; Jackson, T. N. (2012). "The structural and functional diversification of the Toxicofera reptile venom system". Toxicon. 60 (4): 434–448. doi:10.1016/j.toxicon.2012.02.013. PMID 22446061.
  7. ^ Pyron, R. A.; Burbrink, F. T.; Colli, G. R.; De Oca, A. N. M.; Vitt, L. J.; Kuczynski, C. A.; Wiens, J. J. (2011). "The phylogeny of advanced snakes (Colubroidea), with discovery of a new subfamily and comparison of support methods for likelihood trees" (PDF). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 58 (2): 329–342. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2010.11.006. PMID 21074626.
  8. ^ Durso, Andrew (25 May 2015). "The Linnaean Snakes: Part I". Life is Short, but Snakes are Long. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  9. ^ Durso, Andrew (30 June 2015). "The Linnaean Snakes: Part II". Life is Short, but Snakes are Long. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  10. ^ Figueroa, A.; McKelvy, A. D.; Grismer, L. L.; Bell, C. D.; Lailvaux, S. P. (2016). "A species-level phylogeny of extant snakes with description of a new colubrid subfamily and genus". PLOS ONE. 11 (9): e0161070. Bibcode:2016PLoSO..1161070F. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0161070. PMC 5014348. PMID 27603205.

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