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Glossary of Herpetological Terms

... compiled by Dave Royans & Sue Knight
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Term Definition
Latin: Meaning Shiny White
An animal that feeds on others of its own kind. Amongst the Ratsnake species The Stinking Goddess Elaphe carinata and Diones Ratsnake Elaphe dione amongst others are cannibalistic.
Latin: Meaning Head
Latin: Meaning keeled Example: Elaphe carinata Stinking Goddess. Note the gender change from carinatus (male) to the female gender of carinata to match the gender of the genus.
Caudocephalic waves

Ripple-like contractions moving from the rear of a snake to the front along the body.


Captive Bred usually followed by the year Eg: CB06

Latin: Meaning Blue

Captive Farmed usually in the country of origin of the species then exported to other countries for trade.

cf is from a Latin word and means refer to or compare with. So when you see something written say Pantherophis cf. guttatus it means I am not sure what it is but I think it could be Pantherophis guttatus or something closely related or it looks quite like it. It has no taxonomic status whatsoever and is just an easy way of temporarily naming an animal until its true identity can be worked out.

Captive Hatched a reptile that has been hatched from eggs in captivity that were laid by a Wild Caught female


An identifier or characteristic that may be used to distinguish between populations subspecies or species (or even higher taxa). For instance scalation patterning behavioural differences etc.


The specific description of a single character that helps to distinguish an attribute for instance Rhinechis scalaris adults generally have the characteristic of two uninterrupted longitudinal lines that are joined in ’H’ markings as juveniles or their rostral scale is enlarged and protrudes over their mouth.

Latin: Meaning originating from China
Greek: Meaning Green
Chordata is the Phylum or group of animals that contain the vertebrates and invertebrates. All of which have a notochord a hollow dorsal nerve chord at some stage in their life cycle. Chordata can be further subdivided into three major groups or Subphylum - Urochordata which have at larvae stage a notochord and a nerve chord but lose this as adults. Cephalochordata which have both a notochord and central nerve chord but no vertebrae. Vertebrata which has all three characteristics (the exception being Hagfish) with a segemented bony structure protecting the central nerve.
This site has information on the following genera of Ratsnakes ... Spilotes, Spalerosophis, Ptyas, Zamenis, Elaphe, Rhinechis, Senticolis, Pseudelaphe, Pantherophis, Bogertophis, Orthriophis, Gonyosoma, Oreocryptophis, Oocatochus, Euprepiophis, Coelognathus, Archelaphe