Discover the Largest Lyre Snake on Record

© Rodolfo Ayala Plata/

Written by Taiwo Victor

Published: June 1, 2022

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The search for the world’s largest snake has always been a head-scratcher. There are over 3,000 snake species on the planet, so there are plenty of choices. Although some reports have long been exaggerated, snakes can grow to enormous sizes. The python and boa families are host to the world’s largest snakes. Which family has the most giant reptiles depends on whether you measure them by weight or length. While man-eating snakes are highly unusual (though they have been known to occur), our planet is home to some genuinely massive creatures. Ophidiophobia is what we call the fear of snakes, and snakes have captivated and horrified humanity throughout history in equal measure. This brings to mind a question so unusual: what is the largest lyre snake on record?

Background on Lyre Snakes

Lyre Snake

Lyre snakes get their name from the characteristic V-shaped pattern on their heads.

©Alexander Wong/

Trimorphodon is a genus of rear-fanged, mildly venomous colubrid snakes. They are commonly known as “Lyre Snakes.” They get their name from the characteristic V-shaped pattern on their heads, thought to resemble the shape of a lyre. Trimorphodon is a mixture of three Greek words: ‘tri’ – three,’ morph’ – form, and ‘odon’ – teeth, which refers to the three distinct types of teeth that lyre snakes have: recurved front teeth, shorter middle teeth, and enormous grooved fangs at the back of the jaw. In the genus Trimorphodon, there are two different species and seven subspecies. Within these seven subspecies, the western lyre snake is the largest. This article will explore the size of western lyre snakes, their habitat, and other fascinating facts.

What Do Western Lyre Snakes Look Like?

The slender neck of a lyre snake makes its head appear more triangular.

©Rodolfo Ayala Plata/

The V-shaped marking on the back of the head gives the lyre snake its name, and females often have more noticeable markings. Dark brown saddles can be found on a light brown to light gray back. The dorsal scales are smooth anteriorly and weakly keeled posteriorly on around the 6 median scale rows with paired apical pits. The underbelly is creamy-white or yellow with brown dots dispersed throughout.

On first impression, the lyre snake resembles the common king snake. However, like other venomous snakes, the lyre snake’s neck is slender, making the head appear more triangular. Also, like non-venomous snakes, the eyes have vertical slits rather than circular pupils. The female lyre snake has a more prominent, constricted tail than the male. The male’s tail, on the other hand, thickens midway between anal scale and tip and is longer than the female’s.

What is the Largest Lyre Snake Species?

The largest lyre snake is the western lyre snake.

©Rodolfo Ayala Plata/

The western lyre snake is the largest species of lyre snake, which can grow from medium to large in length. They are slender-bodied snakes with a medium-length tail reaching about 1.10 to 1.61 meters (43 to 63 inches). Other species would not even be able to get a maximum of 40 inches in length. For example, the Sonoran lyre snake can reach 36 inches, the Baja California lyre snake – 35 inches, the Sinaloan lyre snake – 36 inches, the Mexican lyre snake- 39 inches, the Texas lyre snake -39 inches, and the Central American lyre snake – 39 inches.

Lyre snakes are medium-sized snakes that typically reach nearly 4 feet (1.2 m). These snakes are common but their population is unknown. However, it is thought to be approximately 10,000. Breeding is most likely in the spring, with females laying a clutch of 10 or more eggs in the summer, which hatch in the late summer and early fall.

Where Do Western Lyre Snakes Live?

The western lyre snake (Trimorphodon biscutatus) is a colubrid snake native to Mexico that is mildly venomous. However, it is a widespread polytypic taxon that can be found in arid locations worldwide, from the heated regions of the southwest United States to the tropical deciduous forests of Mesoamerica. This snake’s range spans much of southern Arizona, Nevada, and Utah.

From sea level to 2,300 m (7,400 feet), the western lyre snake prefers the lower stony canyons and arroyos of hills and mountains. It is a rock dweller nestled in the numerous nooks and fissures found in rocky environments. The western lyre also thrives in coastal southern California’s mountains and canyons, scattered desert mountain ranges, and less wild places near the state’s southeastern border, where it appears to be more tolerant of desert flats and plains.

What Do Western Lyre Snakes Eat?

Lyre snakes feed on small creatures that live among the rocks in rocky environments. Adults consume a variety of birds and small animals, while juveniles eat lizards. Bats, small rodents, and likely ground-nesting birds are their primary food. Because hemorrhagic venom is ineffective against birds and mammals, constriction may be utilized to subdue prey.

How Do Western Lyre Snakes Behave?

Western lyre snakes are a highly secretive species with extraordinary climbing abilities. They reside in rock crevices and canyon walls, where humans have difficulty finding them, making research difficult. They are also never discovered in large quantities. The lyre snake is usually a nocturnal hunter, although it can be spotted basking in the spring and fall in the sun. This nocturnal species forages at night and occasionally in the early morning. It’s been seen active every month of the year except November, with a peak in April and May. Snakes in southern states are more likely to be functional for more extended periods and earlier in the season than those in the north.

Are Lyre Snakes Dangerous?

Although lyre snakes are venomous, they are not typically dangerous to humans or pets. The lyre snake will rattle its tail when threatened, and if prodded further, it will elevate the front half of its body, strike, and bite. Fangs are not found on the lyre snake, but toxins produced in the Duvernoy’s gland are transferred to prey and attackers via the upper jaw’s elongated, grooved teeth. A venomous bite from a big snake is possible. If the snake is able to chew on the skin, symptoms range from none to isolated redness, itching, swelling, and numbness. The venom is hemolytic, targeting the prey’s red blood cells and limiting the prey’s ability to transport oxygen to its tissues.

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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals, tech, and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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