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Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Lamprophiidae
Genus: Mehelya
Csíki, 1903[1]

10 recognized species, see article.

Mehelya is a genus of colubrid snakes from Africa. They are collectively called file snakes due to their unusual scalation. They are not venomous.


The generic name, Mehelya, is in honor of Hungarian zoologist Lajos Méhelÿ.


The 10 recognized species within the genus Mehelya are:

Geographic range[edit]

File snakes are found throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, from the Cape of South Africa through Zimbabwe and Botswana to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and further.


They are not large snakes, growing to around 3–4 ft (90–120 cm). Their dorsal scales are most peculiar. Large patches of bare skin are seen, and scales are separated by large gaps. These scales are strongly keeled, giving the snake the feel of a file - hence the common name. Their body shape is triangular in cross section, which has been noted amongst other "cannibalistic" snakes, and may also provide some sort of benefit for them within their burrowing lifestyle.


They generally occupy more humid regions, but are found in hotter desert areas, too.


File snakes are, by nature, burrowers. They will occupy old, abandoned burrows of rodents where they shelter from the heat in the relative coolness underground. They are also adept at burrowing for themselves, their flattened head aiding them to push their way through the earth and leaf litter. This genus is nocturnal, becoming active at night to hunt prey – other reptiles.


The genus Mehelya feeds mainly on snakes and small lizards, such as geckos. Like many genera that feed solely on snakes, it has developed a triangular body shape as opposed to the plump, rounded body of other snakes.


  1. ^ Kelly, C.M.R., et al. 2010. Molecular systematics of the African snake family Lamprophiidae Fitzinger, 1843 (Serpentes: Elapoidea), with particular focus on the genera Lamprophis Fitzinger 1843 and Mehelya Csiki 1903. Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 58 (3): 415-426.
  2. ^ The Reptile Database.
  3. ^ "Mehelya (Genus)". 2010-01-24. Retrieved 2010-03-29.