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Elapid snakes
Elapidae

Etymology: 'Elaps family'
Notes: The vast majority of Australia's snakes belong to this family. They are terrestrial with relatively short, immovable fangs at the front of their mouths. While they are all venomous, only a handful are capable of delivering a medically significant bite in most circumstances. See the FAQ section on this site for a list of snake venom toxicities.

The Australian elapid snakes appear to have come from Asia (as opposed to already being present on Australia when it split from Gondawana about 160 million years ago) sometime during the Miocene epoch (23 to 5.3 million years ago). On their arrival, they adapted and evolved, filling many ecological niches. This fast adaptive radiation makes it difficult to interpret the relationships between different genera and species. In fact, species within a single genus may display levels of variation comparable to that seen between genera.1

The two sea snake groups appear to represent two independent marine invasions. The oviparous Laticaudidae appear to be closely related to Melanesian elapid snakes and, possibly, more distantly related to Pseudechis. The viviparous Hydrophiidae appear to be related to Hemiaspis.1

The following major clades have strong support from multiple lines of evidence:1 2

Basal oxyuranines
Cacophis
Furina
Demansia

The 'Notechis' clade
Notechis
Hoplocephalus
Austrelaps
Tropidechis
Drysdalia
Echiopsis

Hemiaspis
Hydrophis and other viviparous, 'true' sea snakes

The Rhinoplocephalus group2
Denisonia
Rhinoplocephalus
Cryptophis
Elapognathus
Suta
Parasuta

The 'Pseudonaja' clade
Pseudonaja
Oxyuranus

Banded burrowing snakes
Simoselaps
Brachyurophis
Black-naped snake (Neelaps bimaculatus), but not the black-striped burrowing snake (Neelaps calonotus)

The 'Vermicella' group2
Vermicella
black-striped burrowing snake (Neelaps calonotus)
Statistics: Reproductive modes:
Oviparous - 62 out of 105 Australian species
Live-bearing - 42 out of 105 Australian species
Viviparous - 1 out of 105 Australian species

Size range:
Smallest Australian species: Dampierland burrowing snake (Simoselaps minimus) at 22 cm
Longest Australian species: coastal taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus) at up to 300 cm
Number of Australian genera: 26
Number of Australian species: 105
Genera:
Genus name Australian species
Acanthophis 7
Antaioserpens 2
Austrelaps 3
Brachyurophis 8
Cacophis 4
Cryptophis 5
Demansia 14
Denisonia 2
Drysdalia 3
Echiopsis 1
Elapognathus 2
Furina 5
Hemiaspis 2
Hoplocephalus 3
Neelaps 2
Notechis 1
Oxyuranus 3
Parasuta 6
Paroplocephalus 1
Pseudechis 7
Pseudonaja 9
Rhinoplocephalus 1
Simoselaps 4
Suta 4
Tropidechis 1
Vermicella 5
26 105
References
  1. Keogh, Scott J.; Shine, Richard; & Donnellan, Steve (1998). Phylogenetic relationships of terrestrial Australo-Papuan elapid snakes (subfamily Hydrophiinae) based on cytochrome b and 16S rRNA sequences.. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 10(1):. - search web for this article
  2. Sanders, K. L.; Lee, M. S. Y.; Leys, R.; Foster, R.; & Keogh, J. S. (2008). Molecular phylogeny and divergence dates for Australasian elapids and sea snakes (hydrophiinae): evidence from seven genes for rapid evolutionary radiations. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 21(3):682-695. - search web for this article
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