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a family of reptiles of the order Serpentes, or Ophidia. The body measures up to 3Vi m in length. Numerous teeth are situated on the maxillary, dentary, pterygoid, and palatine bones. Some colubrids have grooved poison fangs on the rear portion of the maxillary bone, behind the nonpoisonous teeth. Only the right lung is developed; the left one is absent or rudimentary. The coloring of Colubridae is often variegated, with vivid multicolor markings. There are approximately 300 genera, with 1,500 species widely distributed on all continents except Antarctica. The USSR has 42 species in 15 genera, including Natrix (true water snakes), Coluber, Lycodon, Coronelía (in the USSR a single species, the smooth snake [C. austríaca]), Boiga, Malopon, Telescopus, Psammophis, and Eirenis.
Colubridae may be terrestrial, arboreal, semiaquatic, or aquatic. Large species feed on fish, amphibians, lizards, other snakes, birds and their eggs, and small mammals, while small ones eat various invertebrates, including mollusks and earthworms. The snakes usually suffocate their prey by biting it and then coiling themselves around it, but they sometimes eat it alive. Some Colubridae kill their prey by poison, which they inject by means of enlarged, grooved fangs. The bites of certain species of Colubridae, such as the boomslang, may be fatal to humans. The majority of Colubridae are oviparous, but some are ovoviviparous. The genus Natrix includes approximately 20 species, of which the USSR has two: N. natrix, which has crescent-shaped markings on the head, and N. tessellata.
REFERENCESTerent’ev, P. V., and S. A. Chernov. Opredelitel’ presmykaiushchikhsia i zemnovodnykh, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1949.
Zhizn’ zhivotnykh, vol. 4, part 2. Moscow, 1969.
I. S. DAREVSKII