Kingsnakes Derive Their Name From Their?
Kingsnakes (members of the genus Lampropeltis) are a diverse group comprised of five primary species and forty-five subspecies that have a wide range of sizes, colors, and habitats. What links this diverse stable of snakes together, however, isn’t any of those wide variables like size or color, but diet.
Kingsnakes are called such because they prey not only on a wide variety of creatures like birds, rodents, lizards, eggs, and whatever else they can opportunistically snatch up, but they will also prey on other snakes, including venomous snakes—in fact, many kingsnake species are immune to the venom of the venomous snakes they prey on.
In addition to venom immunity, many kingsnakes are able to exert unusually high levels of constrictive force, an adaptation researchers believe helps them to kill other snakes and reptile prey (which can sustain lower blood-oxygen levels before asphyxiating).
The “king” reference used to refer to snakes that prey on other snakes extends outside of the kingsnake “family” too; the king cobra is called such because it eats other snakes and even true cobras (of the genus Naja).
Image courtesy of Dawson.