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C. maculatus
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Superfamily: Booidea
Family: Cylindrophiidae
Fitzinger, 1843
Genus: Cylindrophis
Wagler, 1828[1]

The Cylindrophiidae are a monotypic family[2] of secretive, semifossorial, non-venomous snakes containing the genus Cylindrophis found in southeastern Asia. These are burrowing snakes and most have a banded pattern on the belly.[3] Currently, 13 species are recognized, all with no subspecies.[2] Common names include Asian pipe snakes or Asian cylinder snakes.

Geographic range[edit]

Cylindrophis are found in southeastern Asia from Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and the Malay Archipelago, including Singapore, both peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak, and Indonesia, including the Greater Sunda Islands (Borneo [including Sarawak and Brunei]), Sumatra, and Java, as well as some of their offshore islands), Sulawesi, the Lesser Sunda Islands (Lombok, Komodo, Flores, Sumbawa, Timor [including Timor-Leste]), and east to the Maluku Islands (Halmahera, Wetar, Damar, Babar, and into the Tanimbar Archipelago). The eastern distributional limit, sometimes given as the Aru Islands off the southwestern coast of New Guinea, is questionable.[4][5] They are also found in Sri Lanka (but not India[6]) and in southeastern China (Fujian, Hong Kong, and on Hainan Island).[2][7][3][4]


All members of the genus Cylindrophis share the following five characteristics: 1) a relatively blunt head, not distinct from the neck, with minute eyes and a mental groove; 2) the absence of well-developed ventral scales, with ventral scales only slightly larger than or equal in size to the dorsal scales; (3) the presence of a pair of pelvic spurs in both sexes; (4) a very short tail, often with conspicuous ventral coloration; and (5) contrasting light and dark ventral blotching.[4]

The body is cylindrical, with a near-uniform diameter, which leads to the name "pipe snakes". All species are small- to medium-sized, with total lengths ranging from 12.5 cm (5 inches) to 85.7 cm (34 inches).[4]

The teeth are moderate and subequal, with 10–12 in each maxilla and none in the premaxilla. There are no fangs and no evidence of venom. The eyes have round or vertically subelliptic pupils. The head has large symmetrical shields, with the nostrils in a single nasal, which forms a suture with its fellow behind the rostral. Loreal scale is present, a small postocular scale is present. The dorsal scales are smooth, in 17, 19, 21, or 23 rows depending on the species.[3][4][8]

Behavior and ecology[edit]

When threatened, Cylindrophis flatten the posterior portion of their body and arch it above the ground to display their conspicuous ventral pattern, while the head remains concealed among the body coils.[4] Only one species, C. yamdena, lacks a bold ventral pattern in most individuals, having instead an orange-pink belly without bands or spots.[9]

Little is known of the foraging or mating behavior of Cylindrophis. At least one species uses constriction to subdue its prey,[10][11] which include elongate vertebrates: reptiles (snakes), amphibians (caecilians), and fish (eels).[10][12] Prey are swallowed from one end using rotational movements of the braincase and mandibles, a process that takes up to 30 minutes for larger prey.[13] This is distinct from the 'pterygoid walk' used by most other species of alethinophidian snakes, which have greater mobility of most skull bones than Cylindrophis.


The genus Cylindrophis contains the following 14 species.

Species[2] Taxon author[2] Common name[2] Geographic range[1][2][7][3][4]
C. aruensis Boulenger, 1920 Aru cylinder snake Indonesia: The Aru Islands
C. boulengeri Roux, 1911 Boulenger's pipe snake Indonesia: the islands of Babar, Timor, and Wetar, and Timor-Leste
C. burmanus Smith, 1943 Burmese pipe snake Myanmar
C. engkariensis Stuebing, 1994 Engkari pipe snake Malaysia: Borneo (Sarawak)
C. isolepis Boulenger, 1896 Jampea Island pipe snake Indonesia: Jampea Island
C. jodiae Amarasinghe, Ineich, Campbell, & Hallermann, 2015 Jodi's pipe snake central Vietnam, China
C. lineatus Dennys, 1880 Blanford's pipe snake Indonesia: Borneo, and Malaysia: Sarawak
C. maculatus (Linnaeus, 1758) Ceylonese cylinder snake Sri Lanka
C. melanotus Wagler, 1828 black pipe snake Indonesia: Sulawesi (Celebes), the Tabukan Islands, the Sangihe Islands, the Sula Islands, Halmahera and Batjan
C. opisthorhodus Boulenger, 1897 island pipe snake Indonesia: Lombok, Sumbawa, Komodo and Flores.
C. osheai Kieckbusch, Mader, Kaiser, & Mecke, 2018 O’Shea's pipe snake, Boano pipe snake Indonesia: Boano
C. ruffusT (Laurenti, 1768) red-tailed pipe snake Myanmar and southern China (Fujian, Hong Kong and on Hainan Island), south into Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, the Malay Peninsula and the East Indies to Indonesia (the Riau Archipelago, Sumatra, Bangka, Borneo, Java, Sulawesi, Buton and the Sula Islands)
C. slowinskii Bernstein, Bauer, McGuire, Arida, Kaiser, Kieckbusch, & Mecke, 2020[14] Slowinski's pipe snake Myanmar: Kachin state
C. subocularis Kieckbusch, Mecke, Hartmann, Ehrmantraut, O’Shea, & Kaiser, 2016 Indonesia: south-central Java
C. yamdena Smith & Sidik, 1998 Yamdena pipe snake Indonesia: Yamdena Island

T: Type species.[1]

Phylogenetic relationships[edit]

Many recent studies based on molecular data suggest that Cylindrophiidae may be paraphyletic with respect to another family of pipesnakes, Anomochilidae or dwarf pipesnakes.[15][16][17][18] Probably this will be resolved by including Anomochilidae within Cylindrophiidae in the future, but as of May 2018 no formal proposal to do so has been made.

In a broader sense, Cylindrophiidae & Anomochilidae are most closely related to Uropeltidae, a family of burrowing snakes from southern India & Sri Lanka. These three families are together called the Uropeltoidea and probably last shared a common ancestor in the Eocene, about 45 million years ago. Uropeltoids are probably most closely related to pythonoids,[18] and then to booids. These three groups probably last shared a common ancestor in the late Cretaceous, about 75 million years ago.[16]


  1. ^ a b c d McDiarmid RW, Campbell JA, Touré T. 1999. Snake Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, Volume 1. Washington, District of Columbia: Herpetologists' League. 511 pp. ISBN 1-893777-00-6 (series). ISBN 1-893777-01-4 (volume).
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Uetz, Peter. "Cylindrophiidae at The Reptile Database". The Reptile Database. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d Amarasinghe, A. A. T.; Campbell, P. D.; Hallermann, J.; Sidik, I.; Supriatna, J.; Ineich, I. (2015). "Two new species of the genus Cylindrophis Wagler, 1828 (Squamata: Cylindrophiidae) from Southeast Asia" (PDF). Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. 9: 34–51. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-11-24.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Kieckbusch, M.; Mecke, S.; Hartmann, L.; Ehrmantraut, L. E.; O'Shea, M.; Kaiser, H. (2016). "An inconspicuous, conspicuous new species of Asian pipesnake, genus Cylindrophis (Reptilia: Squamata: Cylindrophiidae), from the south coast of Jawa Tengah, Java, Indonesia, and an overview of the tangled taxonomic history of C. ruffus (Laurenti, 1768)". Zootaxa. 4093 (1): 1–25. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.4093.1.1. hdl:2436/621321. PMID 27394478.
  5. ^ Iskandar, D. T. (1998). "The biogeography of Cylindrophis (Cylindrophidae, Ophidia) in the Wallacean Region". Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Eastern Indonesian-Australian Vertebrate Fauna: 32–38.
  6. ^ Smith, M. A. (1943). The Fauna of British India. Volume III. Serpentes (PDF). London: Taylor & Francis. pp. 94–98.
  7. ^ a b Wallach, V.; Williams, Kenneth L.; Boundy, J. (2014). Snakes of the World: A Catalogue of Living and Extinct Species. Boca Raton, Florida, USA: CRC Press. p. 1237. ISBN 9781138034006.
  8. ^ Boulenger GA. 1893. Catalogue of the Snakes in the British Museum (Natural History). Volume I., Containing the Families ... Ilysiidæ ... London: Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History). (Taylor and Francis, printers). xiii + 448 pp. + Plates I-XXVIII. (Genus Cylindrophis, pp. 134-135).
  9. ^ Smith, L.; Sidik, I. (1998). "Description of a new species of Cylindrophis (Serpentes: Cylindrophiidae) from Yamdena Island, Tanimbar Archipelago, Indonesia". Raffles Bulletin of Zoology. 46: 419–424.
  10. ^ a b Kupfer, A.; Gower, D. J.; Himstedt, W. (2003). "Field observations on the predation of the caecilian amphibian, genus Ichthyophis (Fitzinger, 1826), by the red-tailed pipe snake Cylindrophis ruffus (Laurenti, 1768)" (PDF). Amphibia-Reptilia. 24: 201–234.
  11. ^ Greene, H. W.; Burhardt, G. M. (1978). "Behavior and phylogeny: constriction in ancient and modern snakes". Science. 200 (4337): 74–77. Bibcode:1978Sci...200...74G. doi:10.1126/science.635575. PMID 635575.
  12. ^ Priyadashana, T. S.; Jayasooriya, A.; Wijewardana, I. H. (2016). "Cylindrophis maculata (pipesnake) diet". Herpetological Review. 47: 145–146.
  13. ^ Cundall, D. (1995). "Feeding behaviour in Cylindrophis and its bearing on the evolution of alethinophidian snakes". Journal of Zoology. 237 (3): 353–376. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1995.tb02767.x.
  14. ^ Bernstein, Justin M.; Bauer, Aaron M.; Mcguire, Jimmy A.; Arida, Evy; Kaiser, Hinrich; Kieckbusch, Max; Mecke, Sven (2020-09-11). "Molecular phylogeny of Asian pipesnakes, genus Cylindrophis Wagler, 1828 (Squamata: Cylindrophiidae), with the description of a new species from Myanmar". Zootaxa. 4851 (3): 535–558. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.4851.3.5. ISSN 1175-5334. PMID 33056720.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ a b Zheng, Y; Wiens, JJ (2016). "Combining phylogenomic and supermatrix approaches, and a time-calibrated phylogeny for squamate reptiles (lizards and snakes) based on 52 genes and 4162 species". Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution. 94 (Pt B): 537–547. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2015.10.009. PMID 26475614.
  17. ^ Gower, D. J.; Vidal, N.; Spinks, J. N.; McCarthy, C. J. (2005). "The phylogenetic position of Anomochilidae (Reptilia: Serpentes), first evidence from DNA sequences". Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research. 43 (4): 315–320. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0469.2005.00315.x.
  18. ^ a b Reynolds, R. G.; Niemiller, M. L.; Revell, L. J. (2014). "Toward a Tree-of-Life for the boas and pythons: Multilocus species-level phylogeny with unprecedented taxon sampling" (PDF). Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution. 71: 201–213. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2013.11.011. PMID 24315866. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-12-02. Retrieved 2018-05-13.

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