In order to better understand the word “species,” one must understand the whole classification of living things. Everything—bacteria, invertebrates, and animals alike—is put into specific categories. The topmost level, domain, contains just three categories: Archae, Eubacteria, and Eukaryotypes (animals eventually fall into the eukaryotypes). The next step down is kingdom, and has six categories within: Plantae, Animalia, Fungi, Protists, Eubacteria (Monera), and Archaebacteria. Further down, on the third plane, is the phylum, which boasts 100 divisions. Next is class, which starts to sound more familiar, with Reptilia being the category snakes are put into. The order is Squamata, which means “scaled reptiles,” and their suborder is Serpentes, which sounds very familiar. The family, genus, and species is what makes each snake further and further more specific. There are just five families of snakes, some of which have only one species within. The families are: Leptotyphlopidae, Boidae, Colubridae (the largest group), Elapidae, and Viperidae, the final two being the venomous types.

As stated, the Colubridae have the largest group of gena and species, coming in with 41 different gena. Of these, the different Garter snakes (Thamnophis) is the largest Genus, with fifteen separate species within. Tantilla, the crowned and blackheaded snakes are next, with eleven species, water snakes (Nerodia) with ten species, the different type’s kingsnakes at seven species, and the rat snakes and corn snakes (Elaphe) with 6 species.

Surprisingly, the United States boasts three types of boidae, the Burmese python, which is not indigenous, but has begun breeding in Florida, the rosy boa, and the rubber boa. Of the venomous snakes, there are only six gena, Micruroides, Micrurus, Pelamis, Agkistrodon, Crotalus, and Sistrurus. The first three have only one species each, the Western Coral Snake, the Eastern coral snake, and the Yellowbelly Sea Snake, but there are two species of Agkistrodon, the Copperhead and the Cottonmouth, and two species of Sistrurus, the Massasauga and the Pigmy Rattlesnake. The “real” rattlesnakes, Crotalus, have fourteen species to boast.

According to these counts, the garter snakes are the most proliferous, with the rattlesnakes coming second. In actuality, though, there are far more garter, rat, corn, water, and king snakes around than rattlesnakes, as far as humans need to be concerned.

Read the How to get rid of snakes page for helpful information and to learn more about WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON SNAKES OF THE UNITED STATES?


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