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Arizona elegans

Arizona elegans, Photo: United States Geological Survey

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: Colubroidea

Familia: Colubridae
Subfamilia: Colubrinae
Genus: Arizona
Species: Arizona elegans
Subspecies (8): A. e. arenicola – A. e. candida – A. e. eburnata – A. e. elegans – A. e. expolita – A. e. noctivaga – A. e. occidentalis – A. e. philipi

Arizona elegans Kennicott in Baird, 1859: 18 [conserved name]

Lectotype: USNM 1722, ♂. [designated by Blanchard (1924: 4)]

Type locality: “Rio Grande; Between Arkansas and Cimarron”, restricted by lectype designation to “Lower Rio Grande”, by Blanchard (1924: 4).

Placed on the Official List of Specific Names in Zoology by Opinion 717 (1965).

Pityophis elegans — Cope, 1875: 39 [subsequent combination]
Rhinechis elegans — Cope, 1886: 284 [subsequent combination]


Coluber arizonae — Boulenger, 1894: 66 [unnecessary replacemnet name]

Primary references

Baird, S.F. 1859. Reptiles of the boundary, with notes by the naturalists of the survey. in United States and Mexican Boundary Survey, under the orders of Lieut. Col. W.H. Emory, Major First Cavalry, and United States Commissioner. Volume 2, Part 1. Government Printing Office, Washington. 36 pp. + 41 pls. BHL
Cope, E.D. 1875. Check-list of North American Batrachia and Reptilia, with a systematic list of the higher groups, and an essay on Geographic distribution: Serpentes: Based on the specimens in the U.S. National Museum. Government Printing Office: Washington. 104 pp. BHL
Cope, E.D. 1886. Thirteenth contribution to the herpetology of tropical America. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 23(122): 271–287. BHL JSTOR
Boulenger, G.A. 1894. Catalogue of the Snakes in the British Museum (Natural History). Volume II., Containing the Conclusion of the Colubridæ Aglyphæ. British Mus. (Nat. Hist.): London. xi + 382 pp. BHL
Blanchard, F.N. 1924. A new snake of the genus Arizona. Occasional Papers of the Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan 150: 1–3. handle.
International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. 1965. Opinion 717. Arizona elegans Kennicott, 1859 (Reptilia): validated under the plenary powers. Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature 22(1): 19–21. BHL Reference page.


Uetz, P. & Hallermann, J. 2021. Arizona elegans. The Reptile Database. Accessed on 7 May 2018.
Hammerson, G.A., Frost, D.R., Santos-Barrera, G., Vasquez Díaz, J. & Quintero Díaz, G.E. 2007. IUCN: Arizona elegans (Least Concern). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2007: e.T63734A12711788. DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2007.RLTS.T63734A12711788.en

Vernacular names
English: Glossy Snake

Arizona elegans is a species of medium-sized colubrid snake commonly referred to as the glossy snake or the faded snake,[3] which is endemic to the southwestern United States and Mexico. It has several subspecies. Some have recommended that A. elegans occidentalis be granted full species status.


Subspecies of Arizona elegans include:

Arizona elegans arenicola Dixon, 1960 – Texas glossy snake
Arizona elegans candida Klauber, 1946 – Western Mojave glossy snake
Arizona elegans eburnata Klauber, 1946 – Desert glossy snake
Arizona elegans elegans Kennicott, 1859 – Kansas glossy snake
Arizona elegans expolita Klauber, 1946 – Chihuahua glossy snake
Arizona elegans noctivaga Klauber, 1946 – Arizona glossy snake
Arizona elegans occidentalis Blanchard, 1924 – California glossy snake[4]
Arizona elegans philipi Klauber, 1946 – Painted Desert glossy snake


The glossy snake and its many subspecies are all similar in appearance to gopher snakes. However, they are smaller than gopher snakes, with narrow, pointed heads, and a variety of skin patterns and colors. They appear "washed-out" or pale, hence the common name, "faded snakes".[5]

Most subspecies are ca. 75–130 cm (ca. 30-50 inches) in total length. The maximum recorded total length for the species is 142 cm (56 in).[6]

They are shades of tan, brown, and gray with spotted patterns on their smooth, glossy skin, and a white or cream-colored unmarked ventral surface. Coloration often varies in relation to the color of the soil in a snake's native habitat.
Range of Arizona elegans

Habitat is normally semi-arid grasslands of the southwestern United States, from California in the west to Kansas in the east and as far south as Texas, and northern Mexico.
Behavior and diet

They are nonvenomous, nocturnal predators of small lizards. They are also sometimes found in attics.

Glossy snakes are oviparous. Adults breed in the late spring and early summer. Clutches average from 10 to 20 eggs. The eggs hatch in early summers and the newly hatched young are approximately 25 cm (9.8 in) in total length.

Hammerson, G.A.; Frost, D.R.; Santos-Barrera, G.; Vasquez Díaz, J.; Quintero Díaz, G.E. (2007). "Arizona elegans". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2007: e.T63734A12711788. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2007.RLTS.T63734A12711788.en. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
The Reptile Database.
Schmidt, K.P., and D.D.Davis. 1941. Field Book of Snakes of the United States and Canada. G.P. Putnam's Sons. New York. 365 pp. (Arizona elegans, pp. 155-158, Figures 43. & 44. + Plate 17.) Arizona elegans occidentalis. accessed 8.28.2013
Conant, R. 1975. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Second Edition. Houghton Mifflin. Boston. 429 pp. ISBN 0-395-19977-8 (paperback). (Arizona elegans, pp. 197-198 + Plate 27 + Map 145.)

Smith, H.M., and E.D. Brodie Jr. 1982. Reptiles of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Golden Press. New York. 240 pp. ISBN 0-307-13666-3 (paperback). (Arizona elegans, pp. 182-183.)

Further reading

Kennicott, R. in Baird, S.F. 1859. United States and Mexican Boundary Survey, under the Order of Lieut. Col. W. H. Emory, Major First Cavalry, and United States Commissioner. Reptiles of the Boundary, with Notes by the Naturalists of the Survey [Volume 2]. United States Government. Washington, District of Columbia. 35 pp. + Plates I.- XLI. (Arizona elegans, pp. 18–19 + Plate XIII.)
Klauber, L.M. 1946. The Glossy Snake, Arizona, with Descriptions of New Subspecies. Transactions of the San Diego Society of Natural History 10 (17):311-398.


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