Figure 24 in the original description of Palaeoelaphe kanensis, Gilmore (1938). Views A) anterior, B) lateral of the anterior thoracic vertebra of the type USNM 13500.
Figure 25 in the original description of Palaeoelaphe kanensis, Gilmore (1938). Posterior thoracic vertebra of the type USNM 13500.
REPTILIA (Reptiles) SQUAMATA (PART) (Snakes) COLUBRIDAE (Harmless Egg-laying Snakes)

Kansas Foxsnake
Pantherophis kansensis (Gilmore 1938)

Conservation Status:


Vertebrae typically Colubroid. Centrum triangular, moderate length, slightly depressed. Glenoid fossa circular in anterior thoracic, wider than high in posterior thoracic region. Glenoid fossa narrower than zygosphene. Condyle moderately oblique. Hypapophyses on anterior thoracic vertebrae, strong, compressed, and extending downward and slightly backward from the posterior half of the centrum; its truncated extremity is slightly expanded transversely but more especially in an antero-posterior direction. Hypapophyses subequal in length to the spine. Posterior thoracic vertebrae with a low haemal carina, having a flattened ventral surface on the posterior half; the carina begins at the margin of the cup and ends before reaching the condyle in a blunt, transversely rounded projection; at the front end the carina expands rapidly, but in the opposite direction the widening is gradual but continuous to the very end. On either side of the carina the surface of the centrum is flattened, thus causing this keel to stand out boldly in relief. Heavy, low rounded ridge between condyle and diapophyses. Diapophyses below, but set posterior to the overlying prezygapophyses; articular surfaces looking outward and downward; upper articular surface subglobular, lower articular surface flattened, widened antero-posteriorly and extending strongly below the inferior margin of the glenoid fossa. Zygapophyses slender, with sharp borders, and oblique oval facets. Zygosphene thin dorso-ventrally, facets 45 degrees to the vertical, wider than glenoid fossa. Lateral emargination between zygapophyses joined by a sharp ridge, but not prominent. Bluntly pointed process extending outward and forward from below the level of the articular facets of the prezygapophyses. Spine quadrangular, moderate height, upper truncated border slightly overhanging posteriorly. Neural canal nearly as wide as zygosphene. From Gilmore (1938)


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  • Occurrence Summary:  
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Some county occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map above.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences):
Phillips (1);

Natural History:

Associated with the type materials of Palaeoelaphe were a number of much smaller vertebrae, indicating the presence of an undescribed snake in this fauna. The diseased condition of many of these vertebrae and their poor preservation as a whole prevent description. Their small size and much flattened haemal keel distinguish them from the present species. Among extant ophidians, Palaeoelaphe appears to have its closest affinities with the genus Elaphe from which it is distinguished by its larger size, more robust hypapophyses with dilated distal end that is truncate, and by the flattened haemal carina. From Gilmore (1938).
Auffenberg (1963) synonymized Paleoelaphe with Elaphe. Burbrink (2000) erected Pantherophis for the North American clade of ratsnakes that including P. obsoletus and P. emoryi from Kansas. Holman (2000) synonymized P. nebraskensis under P. kansensis.
Auffenberg (1963) allied P. kansensis with P. obsoletus, however Holman (2000) found it more similar to P. ramspotti.
Two precaudal vertebrae, formerly assigned to "Coluber ?plioagellus" by Wilson (1968), UMMP V55714 and V55616, were re-assigned to Pantherophis sp. by Holman (1975). They all lacked the characters of the Coluber-Masticophis type of vertebra and are very similar to the Recent genus Pantherophis.

1938 Gilmore, C. W. Fossil snakes of North America. Geological Society of America Special Paper (9):1-96
1963 Auffenberg, Walter. The fossil snakes of Florida. Tulane Studies in Zoology 10(3):131-216
1967 Brattstrom, Bayard H. A succession of Pliocene and Pleistocene snake fauna from the High Plains of the United States. Copeia 1967(1):188-202
An examination (or in many cases, a re-examination) of 11,000 accumulated skeletal elements from fossil deposits collected at various sites and ranging in age from Lower Pliocene to the Recent.
1973 Holman, J. Alan. A new Pliocene snake, genus Elaphe, from Oklahoma. Copeia 1973(3):574-580
Original description of Pantherophis buisi in Oklahoma.
1979 Holman, J. Alan. A review of North American Tertiary snakes. Publications of the Museum, Michigan State University, Paleontological Series 1():203-260
2000 Burbrink, Frank T. Systematics of the polymorphic North American rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta). Dissertation. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. 202pp.
2000 Holman, J. Alan. Fossil snakes of North America: Origin, evolution, distribution, paleoecology. Indian University Press, Bloomington. 357pp.
2000 Burbrink, Frank T., Robin Lawson, and Joseph B. Slowinski. Mitochondrial DNA phylogeography of the polytypic North American Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta): A critique of the subspecies concept. Evolution 54():2107-2118
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Travis W. Taggart © 1999-2024 — w/ Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University