A Summary and Update on Homalopsid Snakes, Their Diversity, and Biogeography

Murphy, John C.

Field Museum

1400 S Lake Shore Drive

Chicago, IL USA

Homalopsid snakes are monophyletic and distributed from the tropics of South Asian to Australasia, with an outlier population in the western Pacific. Recent molecular studies have considered them the sister group to colubroids and lamprophiids, or suggest they be placed in the Endoglyptodonta as a monophyletic group containing the vipers, homalopsids, elapoids, and colubroids. Other molecular analyses suggested the crown homalopsids are of early Miocene origin and that the family originated about 53.4 MYA. Currently 54 species are recognized in 28 genera. There are additional undescribed species and genera. The most basal taxa are terrestrial, lack rear fangs, feed on worms, and are restricted to Indonesia. The more derived clades tend to be aquatic, have rear fangs and feed on fish or crustaceans. The greatest species diversity currently recognized occurs in the Indochinese Peninsula and the adjacent Sunda Shelf. I will discuss the biogeography and natural history of homalopsids, along with the challenges of developing future knowledge of these interesting snakes