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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: Colubroidea

Familia: Dipsadidae
Subfamilia: Heterodontinae
Genus: Carphophis
Species: C. amoenus – C. vermis

Carphophis Gervais, 1843
Vernacular names
English: worm snakes

Carphophis (common name worm snakes) is a genus of small colubrid snakes endemic to the United States. The genus consists of two species.


Worm snakes are small snakes, 35 cm (14 in) or less in total length. They are usually a dark brown in color on the upperside, with a lighter-colored, pink or orange underside. They are easily mistaken for other similar species, such as the earth snakes (genus Virginia) and the brown snakes (genus Storeria). They have narrow heads, small eyes, and sharp tail tips. They are not venomous.

Worm snakes are fossorial snakes, and spend the vast majority of their time buried in loose, rocky soil, or under forest leaf litter. They are abundant within their range, but rarely seen due to their secretive nature.

Little is known about their mating habits, but breeding likely occurs in early spring. The eggs are laid in early summer. Clutch size is normally two to five eggs, and hatching takes place in August or September. Hatchlings range in size from 7 to 12 cm (about 3-5 inches).

Worm snakes eat almost entirely earthworms, but they will also consume soft-bodied insects.

They are a common food source for ophiophagous snake species, such as the coral snakes, Micrurus fulvius and Micrurus tener, in areas in which they are sympatric.
Species and subspecies

Carphophis amoenus (Say, 1825) - worm snake
Carphophis amoenus amoenus (Say, 1825) - eastern worm snake
Carphophis amoenus helenae (Kennicott, 1859) - midwestern worm snake
Carphophis vermis (Kennicott, 1859) - western worm snake

Geographic distribution

C. amoenus - Arkansas, eastern Missouri, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, northern Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, southern Illinois, southern Indiana, southern Ohio, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, southeastern New York, and Connecticut
C. vermis - southern Iowa, southeastern Nebraska, eastern Kansas, western Illinois, Missouri, Louisiana, eastern Oklahoma, and northeastern Texas with isolated records from southwestern Wisconsin, and southeastern Arkansas


Wright, A.H., and A.A. Wright. 1957. Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada. Comstock. Ithaca and London. 1,105 pp. (in two volumes) (Genus Carphophis, pp. 104-105, Map 12 + Figure 21 on p. 73.)

Further reading

Boulenger, G.A. 1894. Catalogue of the Snakes in the British Museum (Natural History). Volume II., Containing the Conclusion of the Colubridæ Aglyphæ. Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History) (Taylor and Francis, Printers.) London. xi + 382 pp. + Plates I.- XX. (Genus Carphophis, p. 324.)
Gervais, P. 1843. In D'Orbigny, Ch. 1843. Dictionnaire Universel d'Histoire Naturelle, Nouvelle Édition. Tome Troisième [volume 3, BRU - CHY]. A. Pilon. Paris. 752 pp. (Carphophis, p. 262.)


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