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Order Description

Squamata Suborder: Serpentes


Order Description

The Order Squamata, scaled reptiles, is the largest order of reptiles with over 6,000 living species. It is composed of three suborders: the Amphisbaenia (amphisbaenians), the Lacertilia (lizards), and the Serpentes (snakes). Members of this huge order are found worldwide, except in Antarctica and on a few very remote islands. All members of this order share similar characters in bone structures and anatomy of the male sex organ. All also have bodies covered in scales, and all periodically shed their skin.

Family Colubridae

This family includes egg-laying and live-bearing non-venomous snakes and rear-fanged snakes. In Georgia there are 20 genera and 34 species.

Of this number, 9 genera and 13 species in Georgia are harmless egg-laying snakes. Most of these snakes are medium to large, terrestrial, diurnal snakes. A few species are aquatic, and one species is arboreal. This group includes constrictors like Kingsnakes, Rat Snakes, and Pine Snakes. Constrictors grab their prey, then coil their body about it and squeeze until the prey is no longer able to inhale and dies of suffocation.

Another 6 genera and 15 species of colubrid snakes in Georgia are harmless live-bearing snakes. These snakes range in size from small to moderately large. The majority are aquatic or semi-aquatic, and a few are strictly terrestrial. Some species are feeding specialists, and (depending upon the snake's genus) will feed only on eat snails, slugs, earthworms, crayfish, fish, or amphibians.

The remaining species in this family in Georgia are rear-fanged snakes with weak venon. These snakes have an enlarged pair of teeth in the rear of the upper jaw. However, these teeth are not like the true hollow fangs of the dangerously venomous Pit Vipers and Coral Snakes. Most rear-fanged species are small, secretive, forest dwellers. All lay eggs. Five genera and 6 species of rear-fanged snakes occur in Georgia.
Species in this family:
    Banded Watersnake (Nerodia fasciata)
    Black Swamp Snake (Seminatrix pygaea)
    Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi)
    Brown Watersnake (Nerodia taxispilota)
    Coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum)
    Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis)
    Common Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula)
    Corn Snake (Elaphe guttata)
    Eastern Green Watersnake (Nerodia floridana)
    Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos)
    Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon couperi)
    Eastern Milk Snake/Scarlet Kingsnake (Lampropeltis triangulum)
    Eastern Racer (Coluber constrictor)
    Florida Crowned Snake (Tantilla relicta)
    Glossy Crayfish Snake (Regina rigida)
    Midland Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon)
    Mole Kingsnake (Lampropeltis calligaster)
    Mud Snake (Farancia abacura)
    Pine Snake (Pituophis melanoleucus)
    Pine Woods Snake (Rhadinaea flavilata)
    Plain-bellied Water Snake (Nerodia erythrogaster)
    Queen Snake (Regina septemvittata)
    Rainbow Snake (Farancia erytrogramma)
    Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta)
    Red-bellied Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata)
    Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis sauritus)
    Ringneck Snake (Diadophis punctatus)
    Rough Earth Snake (Virginia striatula)
    Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys aestivus)
    Scarlet Snake (Cemophora coccinea)
    Smooth Earth Snake (Virginia valeriae)
    Southeastern Crowned Snake (Tantilla coronata)
    Southern Hognose Snake (Heterodon simus)
    Striped Crayfish Snake (Regina alleni)
    Worm Snake (Carphophis amoenus)

Family Elapidae

This group encompasses the fixed or immobile fanged venomous snakes, including Coral Snakes, Cobras, Sea Snakes, Mambas, and all of Australia's venomous snakes. Members of this family have permanently erect, hollow fangs that fit into slots in the lower jaw. All elapid snakes have venom that paralyzes the nervous system, stopping the heart or lungs. One member of this family occurs in Georgia, the Eastern Coral Snake.
Species in this family:
    Eastern Coral Snake (Micrurus fulvius)

Family Viperidae

These are dangerously venomous snakes, with hollow fangs that are hinged to fold back against the roof of the mouth when closed. Species from this family are found on all continents except Australia and Antarctica. The viperids in North America are members of the subfamily Crotalinae or Pit Vipers. These snakes get their common name from a heat-sensing pit located between the nostril and the eye on either side of the face. The pits are infrared receptors that aid the snake in locating warm-blooded prey at night. These are large, thick-bodied snakes that bear live young. Georgia is home to 5 viperid snakes, which include 3 genera and 5 species.
Species in this family:
    Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix)
    Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus)
    Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus)
    Pigmy Rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius)
    Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus)