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(European whip snakes), a genus of snakes of the family Colubridae. The body reaches 2.4 m long. The upper part of the body is usually of one color; sometimes it has dark stripes and spots. The underside is lighter in color. The young snakes are usually of a different color than the adults.
There are about 30 species, distributed in southern Europe, Asia, northern and eastern Africa, and North and Central America. The USSR has six species: C. rhodorhachis, C. karelini, and C. spinalis are found in Middle Asia and Kazakhstan; C. ravergieri and C. najadum inhabit Middle Asia and the Caucasus; and C. jugularis is encountered in the European USSR, the Caucasus, and southern Turkmenia. The snakes inhabit steppes, semideserts, deserts, and forested plains and mountains. C. ravergieri lives at elevations to 2,500 m.
European whip snakes are very mobile. They feed predominantly on murids, lizards, fledglings, and small birds. The young feed on insects. Most species catch their prey with their teeth and then squeeze it with the body rings or press it against the ground. The snakes are all egg layers, with the female depositing as many as 25 eggs. The bite of Coluber, like those of other snakes in this family, is not dangerous to humans but may be painful.
I. S. DAREVSKII