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Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Superphylum: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Cladus: Craniata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Cladus: Reptiliomorpha
Cladus: Amniota
Classis: Reptilia
Cladus: Eureptilia
Cladus: Romeriida
Subclassis: Diapsida
Cladus: Sauria
Infraclassis: Lepidosauromorpha
Superordo: Lepidosauria
Ordo: Squamata
Subordo: Serpentes
Infraordo: Caenophidia
Superfamilia: Elapoidea

Familia: Lamprophiidae
Genus: Mehelya
Species (5): M. egbensis – M. gabouensis – M. laurenti – M. poensis – M. stenophthalmus

Mehelya Csiki, 1903 [nomen substitutum]

Type species: Heterolepis poensis Smith, 1849.


Grobbenia Poche [preoccupied by Grobbenia Holdhaus, 1903]

Additional references

Broadley, D.G.†, Tolley, K.A., Conradie, W., Wishart, S., Trape, J.-F., Burger, M., Kusamba, C., Zassi-Boulou, A.-G. & Greenbaum, E. 2018. A phylogeny and genus-level revision of the African file snakes Gonionotophis Boulenger (Squamata: Lamprophiidae). African Journal of Herpetology 67(1): 43–60. DOI: 10.1080/21564574.2018.1423578 Paywall Reference page.


Uetz, P. & Hallermann, J. 2021. Mehelya . The Reptile Database. Accessed on 14 February 2020.
Mehelya – Taxon details on Interim Register of Marine and Non-marine Genera (IRMNG).

Vernacular names
English: Greater File Snakes

Mehelya is a genus name of colubrid snakes from Africa. Some species formerly assigned to the genus Mehelya are now found in the genera Gonionotophis, Gracililima, or Limaformosa. They are collectively called file snakes due to their unusual scalation. They are not venomous.


The generic name, Mehelya, is in honor of Hungarian zoologist Lajos Méhelÿ.

The 5 species within the genus Mehelya are:

Mehelya egbensis Dunger, 1966 (Dunger, 1966) – Dunger's file snake
Mehelya gabouensis J.-F. Trape & Mané, 2005 (J.-F. Trape & Mané, 2005) – Gabou file snake
Mehelya laurenti de Witte, 1959 (de Witte, 1959) – file snake
Mehelya poensis (A. Smith, 1849) (A. Smith, 1849) – forest file snake, western forest file snake
Mehelya stenopthalmus (Mocquard, 1887) (Mocquard, 1887) – small-eyed file snake

Geographic range

File snakes are found throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, from the Cape of South Africa through Zimbabwe and Botswana to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and further.

File snakes are not large snakes, growing to around 3–4 feet (0.91–1.22 m). Their dorsal scales are most peculiar. Large patches of bare skin are seen, and scales are separated by large gaps. These scales are strongly keeled, giving the snake the feel of a file - hence the common name. Their body shape is triangular in cross section, which has been noted amongst other "cannibalistic" snakes, and may also provide some sort of benefit for them within their burrowing lifestyle.

File snakes generally occupy more humid regions, but are found in hotter desert areas, too.

File snakes are, by nature, burrowers. They will occupy old, abandoned burrows of rodents where they shelter from the heat in the relative coolness underground. They are also adept at burrowing for themselves, their flattened head aiding them to push their way through the earth and leaf litter. This genus is nocturnal, becoming active at night to hunt prey – other reptiles.

The genus Mehelya feeds mainly on snakes and small lizards, such as geckos. Like many genera that feed solely on snakes, it has developed a triangular body shape as opposed to the plump, rounded body of other snakes.

Kelly, C.M.R., et al. (2010). "Molecular systematics of the African snake family Lamprophiidae Fitzinger, 1843 (Serpentes: Elapoidea), with particular focus on the genera Lamprophis Fitzinger 1843 and Mehelya Csiki 1903". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evololution 58 (3): 415-426.

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