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Eryx (snake)

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Temporal range: Miocene–recent
Javelin sand boa, E. jaculus
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Boidae
Subfamily: Erycinae
Genus: Eryx
Daudin, 1803
  • Clothonia Daudin, 1803
  • Cusoria Gray, 1849
  • Cursoria Günther, 1864
  • Pseudogongylophis
    Tokar, 1989

Eryx is a genus of nonvenomous snakes, commonly known as Old World sand boas, in the subfamily Erycinae of the family Boidae.[2] Species of the genus are found in southeastern Europe, northern Africa, the Middle East, and southwestern Asia. Thirteen species are recognized as being valid.[2]


The genus Eryx has the following characters. The head is not distinct from the neck. The dorsal surface of the head is covered with small scales. The rostral is large. The eyes range from small to very small, and the pupils are vertical. The anterior maxillary teeth and anterior mandibular teeth are longer than the posterior ones. The body is almost cylindrical. The dorsal scales are smooth or keeled. The tail is very short, either not prehensile or only slightly prehensile. The subcaudals are undivided.[3]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Species of snakes of the genus Eryx are found in southeastern Europe, northern Africa, the Middle East, and southwestern Asia.[1]


Nota bene: In the list below, a taxon author in parentheses indicates that the species was originally described in a genus other than Eryx.

Species[2] Taxon author[2] Subspecies*[2] Common name Geographic range[1]
Eryx borrii[4] Lanza & Nistri, 2005 0 Borri's sand boa Somalia
Eryx colubrinus (Linnaeus, 1758) 2 Egyptian sand boa, Kenyan sand boa Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia
Eryx conicus (Schneider, 1801) 0 Rough-tailed sand boa, common sand boa Pakistan, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka
Eryx elegans (Gray, 1849) 0 Central Asian sand boa Southern Turkmenistan, northern Iran (the Kopet Dag Mountains in the northeast and the Azerbaijan region in the northwest) and Afghanistan
Eryx jaculus (Linnaeus, 1758) 0 Javelin sand boa Southern Italy, Eastern Europe in Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Albania and Greece (including Corfu and the Cyclades). The Caucasus. The Middle East in Syria, Israel, northeastern Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran. Africa north of the Sahara Desert from Morocco to Egypt.
Eryx jayakari Boulenger, 1888 0 Arabian sand boa From the east and south of the Arabian Peninsula north to Khūzestān Province in Iran
Eryx johnii (Russell, 1801) 0 Indian sand boa From Iran through Pakistan into northwestern and southern India
Eryx miliaris (Pallas, 1773) 0 Dwarf sand boa From the northern Caucasus and the north coast of the Caspian Sea east through Kazakhstan to the north coast of the Aral Sea and Lake Balkhash, though the Zaysan Valley to Sinkiang in China and southern Mongolia. Also in northern and eastern Iran, Afghanistan and western Pakistan.
Eryx muelleri (Boulenger, 1892) 1 Müller’s sand boa Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, the Central African Republic
Eryx sistanensis Eskandarzadeh, N. Rastegar-Pouyani, E. Rastegar-Pouyani, Zargan, Hajinourmohamadi, Nazarov, Sami, Rajabizadeh, Nabizadeh & Navaian, 2020 0 Sistan sand boa Iran
Eryx somalicus Scortecci, 1939 0 Somali sand boa Somalia
Eryx vittatus (Chernov, 1959) 0 Northern Iran, Tajikistan, northern Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, and eastern China
Eryx whitakeri Das, 1991 0 Whitaker's sand boa Southwestern coastal India in Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and southern Maharashtra

T) Type species.[1]

Fossil taxa[edit]

Two fossil species are known. The earliest is E. linxiaensis from the Miocene of Gansu, China, which appears to be the sister species to Eryx colubrinus, suggesting several intercontinental dispersals from Africa to Eurasia during the Miocene. E. primitivus is known from the middle Pliocene of Spain, and appears to be an early offshoot of the main Eryx lineage.[5][6]


  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 "Eryx". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 7 July 2008.
  3. ^ Boulenger GA (1893). Catalogue of the Snakes in the British Museum (Natural History). Volume I., Containing the Families ... Boidæ ... London: Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History). (Taylor and Francis, printers). xiii + 448 pp. + Plates I-XXVIII. (Genus Eryx, p. 122-123, Figure 7).
  4. ^ Beolens B, Watkins M, Grayson M (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. (Eryx borrii, p. 32).
  5. ^ Shi, Jingsong; Li, Qiang; Stidham, Thomas A.; Zhang, Chi; Jiangzuo, Qigao; Chen, Mo; Ni, Xijun (2023-05-01). "Evolutionary and biogeographic implications of an Erycine snake (Serpentes, Erycidae, Eryx) from the Upper Miocene of the Linxia Basin, Gansu Province, China". Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 617: 111491. doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2023.111491. ISSN 0031-0182.
  6. ^ Szyndlar, Zbigniew; Schleich, Hans-Hermann (1994-01-01). "Two species of the genus Eryx (Serpentes; Boidae; Erycinae) from the Spanish Neogene with comments on the past distribution of the genus in Europe". Amphibia-Reptilia. 15 (3): 233–248. doi:10.1163/156853894X00010. ISSN 1568-5381.

Further reading[edit]

  • Daudin FM (1803). Histoire Naturelle, Génerale et Particulière des Reptiles; Ouvrage faisant suite aux Œuvres de Leclerc de Buffon, et partie du Cours complet d'Histoire naturelle rédigé par C.S. Sonnini, membre de plusieurs Sociétés savantes. Tome septième [Volume 7]. Paris: F. Dufart. 436 pp. (Eryx, new genus, pp. 251–253). (in French).

External links[edit]