Colubrids

    Colubrids are often slender, agile snakes that can be found all over the world. They come in all sizes and colors, and many of them have fascinating behavioural adaptations. For example, the snakes of the genus Chrysopelea, or flying snakes, launch themselves from one treetop to the other in Asian rainforests, gliding through the air through flattening their bodies to serve as parachutes.

    Many colubrids feed on small, non-dangerous prey like lizards and frogs. They kill their prey through constriction, often helped by injecting some venom. Many colubrids are technically venomous, although harmless for man. Their fangs are located in the back of the upper jaw, in contrast with cobras, vipers and pitvipers, which are front-fanged. Colubrids need to chew venom into their prey, and thus they cannot inject much venom in short time. Their venom-system is much less advanced as that of the front-fanged snakes, not only in terms of fangs, but also in terms of venom glands. Colubrids lack the compressor muscles that cause rapid venom expulsion in front-fanged snakes, and they lack a lumen (storage room) for the venom. There are exceptions, however. African boomslangs (Dispholidus) and the African cape file snakes (Mehelya), both colubrids, have some muscle attachment to their venom glands. The boomslang is, in addition, also the most dangerous colubrid snake that we know of to date. People have died from bites by this species. The most famous case is that of renowned snake expert Karl P. Schmidt, who got bit by a boomslang in 1957 and died.