Snakes and lizards are part of the same evolutionary lineage. That is, in an evolutionary sense, the animals known as snakes are specialized lizards. Snakes are often secretive and rely on scent rather than vision in their predatory and social behaviour. As a result, snakes are usually a less conspicuous part of the fauna than lizards. Nonetheless, snakes are important components of ecosystems in many parts of the world and display a broad range of specializations. Snakes are leggless and lack eyelids and external ears. Vestiges of hind limbs are still present in some primitive forms. In most species, the left lung is reduced or absent. Snakes have long vertebral columns and can have more than 400 vertebrae, with many articulated ribs. All are carnivores and food may be engulfed alive or first subdued by constriction or by the injection of venom. Prey is swallowed whole and the lower jaw can be dislocated to allow large items to be swallowed. Some species have very toxic venoms which can also be used in defense against predators. Most species are egg-laying, but a few are live-bearing. There are more than 2600 living snake species in the world and 143 in southern Africa. Snakes are considered as important as birds of prey in controlling rodent pests in farmlands. The vast majority of local snakes are completely harmless or clinically unimportant and a greater tolerance and understanding of these efficient and unique predators is called for.

All snake species profiles were prepared by Andrew Turner (CapeNature).


Species occurring in the GCBC:

Berg Adder

Many-horned Adder

Puff Adder

Red Adder


Common Eggeater

Common Slugeater

Coral Snake

Herald Snake, Red-lipped Snake

Spotted Harlequin Snake

Brown House Snake

Delalande's Blind Snake

Mole Snake

Spotted Skaapsteker

Karoo Sand Snake

Namib Sand Snake

Cross-marked Sand Snake

Sundevall's Shovelsnout

Cape Cobra

Black Spitting Cobra

Brown Water Snake

Slender Thread Snake

Spotted House Snake

Beetz's Tiger Snake

Horned Adder or Single Horned Adder


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