There are 291 species classified within the elapid family, which is further divided up into 60 genera (listed below).
Elapidae is one of the three families of snakes that are venomous. Elapidae are front fanged like the viperidae, unlike the colubridae (only a few of which are venomous). While the venom of elapids can be either haemotoxic or neurotoxic, neurotoxic elements are usually primary. Unlike the "more evolved" viperidae elapids have fixed fangs, which are consequently shorter, so the snake does not bite itself. In body shape elapids tend to be more slender and longer than the vipers. The longest poisonous snakes, the king cobra and the black mamba are both members of this family. Elapidae seem closely related to colubridae, and share the feature of posessing few large scales on the head.
The most famous genera in this family are the cobras, most of which are from the geus Naja. Other notable genera include Dendroaspis - the mambas, and Micrurus - the coral snakes.
Members of the elapid family can be found in many locations: Central and Tropical South America, South-East Asia, almost all of Africa, as well as Australasia. Interestingly, the only venomous snakes in Australia are elapids, and of the snakes that live on that continent over 50% are from the elapidae family. In Australia elapids fill niches usally filled by vipers, the best example being the death adder.
All sea snakes come from the elapid family. The most noticable adaptation they display is a flattened tail that can propel them throught the water more powerfully. Sea snakes are found in waters in many tropical parts of the world, but none are native to the Atlantic. Sea snakes are renowned for having especially potent venom, but are not usually agressive unless breeding.
- Terrestrial elapids
- Aquatic elapids