Giant snakes

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Giant snakes

Obsolete systematic group

The taxon dealt with here is not part of the systematics presented in the German-language Wikipedia. More information can be found in the article text.

Left: Great anaconda (Eunectes murinus);  right: Reticulated python (Malayopython reticulatus)

Left: Great anaconda ( Eunectes murinus );
right: Reticulated python ( Malayopython reticulatus )

Superordinate : Scale lizards (Lepidosauria)
Order : Scale reptiles (Squamata)
Subordination : Snakes (serpentes)
without rank: Real snakes (Alethinophidia)
Polyphyletic taxon :
Family : Giant snakes
Scientific name
Gray , 1825

The boas (Boidae) are no longer used in the zoological taxonomy taxon of snakes in the rank of a family that the Real Boas , the sand boas and pythons included. This concept was abandoned because, according to the results of molecular genetic relationship analyzes, the pythons are more closely related to some “primitive”, rather small, burrowing snakes than to the other traditional giant snakes, which, however, also do not form a monophyletic group. At least the former subfamilies Boinae (Real Boas) * and Pythoninae (Pythons) of the traditional Boidae were therefore raised to the rank of independent families ( Boidae and Pythonidae) within the large group Alethinophidia ("higher" snakes). The sand boas ** are now limited to the genus Eryx and are either managed as a subfamily of the revised Boidae or - in the course of more recent molecular genetic based analyzes - as an independent family of a superfamily Booidea, which is conceptually similar to the revised Boidae .

 Roller snakes (Cylindrophiidae)


 Burrowing snakes (Anomochilidae)


 Tails (Uropeltidae)

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 Pythons (Pythonidae)


 Pointed-head pythons (Loxocemidae)

  Boas  (Booidea)  

 Earth pythons (Calabariidae)


 Pacific boas (Candoiidae)


 " Madagascar boas " (Sanziniidae)


 Dwarf boas (Ungaliophiinae)


 Gummiboas (Charininae)


 Sand boas (Erycidae)


 Boas i. e. S. (Boidae)

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Cladogram of basal alethinophidia, a consensus of the results of the analyzes by Pyron et al. (2013), Reynolds et al. (2014) and Figueroa et al. (2016). The (in most cases monotypical or slightly diverse) terminal taxa, which were previously assigned to the giant snakes, are listed in bold (see also the notes on the text on the previous assignment of meanwhile independent families or subfamilies). The nomenclature of the “Boa clade” is based on the proposal by Pyron et al. (2014).

The traditional Boidae were also combined with other "primitive" snake families in the taxon giant snake-like (Henophidia) and contrasted with the even more "primitive" blind snake-like (Scolecophidia) on the one hand and the "modern" snakes (Caenophidia) on the other. However, the monophyly of Henophidia has been questioned since the 1980s, and this taxon is also no longer used today.

The morphologically good, but mainly due to original features ( plesiomorphies ), u. a. two almost equally well-developed lungs , paired carotids , a toothed premaxillary and rudimentary pelvic bones and hind extremities (anal spurs ), justified giant snakes would now include a little more than 100 species. It is named after the relatively large growth of its representatives, among which the longest and heaviest forms of the recent scale lizards (Lepidosauria) can be found. They feed mainly on smaller vertebrates and are not poisonous, but belong to the strangler snakes .

* traditionally including the Pacific boas ( Candoia ) and Malagasy boas ( Acrantophis , Sanzinia )
** traditionally also the genera Calabaria and Charina comprehensively and partly as a subfamily Erycinae within the giant snakes, partly as a tribe Erycini subordinate to the Boinae


  1. ^ A b Hobart M. Smith, Rozella B. Smith, H. Lewis Sawin: A Summary of Snake Classification (Reptilia, Serpentes). Journal of Herpetology. Vol. 11, No. 2, 1977, pp. 115-121, JSTOR
  2. a b c d e Gerhard Mickoleit: Phylogenetic systematics of vertebrates. Publishing house Dr. Friedrich Pfeil, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-89937-044-9 , p. 326 f.
  3. a b c Laurie J. Vitt, Janalee P. Caldwell: Herpetology - An Introductory Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles. Academic Press / Elsevier, 2014, ISBN 978-0-12-386919-7 , pp. 608 ff.
  4. a b R. Alexander Pyron, Frank T. Burbrink, John J. Wiens: A phylogeny and revised classification of Squamata, including 4161 species of lizards and snakes. BMC Evolutionary Biology. Vol. 13, 2013, item no. 93, doi: 10.1186 / 1471-2148-13-93
  5. a b R. Alexander Pyron, R. Graham Reynolds, Frank T. Burbrink: A Taxonomic Revision of Boas (Serpentes: Boidae). Zootaxa. Vol. 3846, No. 2, 2014, pp. 249-260, doi: 10.11646 / zootaxa.3846.2.5
  6. ^ R. Graham Reynolds, Matthew L. Niemiller, Liam J. Revell: Toward a Tree-of-Life for the boas and pythons: Multilocus species-level phylogeny with unprecedented taxon sampling. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. Vol. 71, 2014, pp. 201-213, doi: 10.1016 / j.ympev.2013.11.011
  7. Alex Figueroa, Alexander D. McKelvy, L. Lee Grismer, Charles D. Bell, Simon P. Lailvaux: A Species-Level Phylogeny of Extant Snakes with Description of a New Colubrid Subfamily and Genus. PLoS ONE. Vol. 11, No. 9, 2016, Item No. e0161070, doi: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0161070
  8. a b Philip J. Heise, Linda R. Maxson, Herndon G. Dowling, S. Blair Hedges: Higher-level snake phylogeny inferred from mitochondrial DNA sequences of 12S rRNA and 16S rRNA genes. Molecular Biology and Evolution. Vol. 12, No. 2, 1995, pp. 259-265, doi: 10.1093 / oxfordjournals.molbev.a040202
  9. Olivier Rieppel: A review of the origin of snakes. Pp. 37-130 in: Max K. Hecht, Bruce Wallace, Ghillean T. Prance (Eds.): Evolutionary Biology, Vol. 22. Plenum Press, New York 1988, ISBN 978-1-4612-8251-8 , p 85