Distribution

Elapids are found in the southern United States to Central and South America, Africa except for Madagascar, southern Asia, Australia, and the intervening Pacific and Indian Oceans. They are most diverse in equatorial regions. Although widely distributed, each of the major elapid groups tends to occupy a particular region. For example, the elapid fauna of the Americas includes only the diverse coral snake lineage, which has approximately 60 species. Several coral snake species exist in the United States from North Carolina to Florida and west to Arizona. Coral snake diversity increases greatly in Mexico and Central and South America. The cobra group occupies almost all of Africa, the Middle East, and all of southern Asia. Cobras reach to Java in the Indonesian archipelago. Mambas are found in southern and central Africa, and terrestrial kraits are found from India through Southeast Asia. The Australo-Papuan elapids are the most diverse in terms of species number. They are found throughout Australia and New Guinea. A few species of elapids are found on the Solomon Islands. The unusual Ogmodon vitianus is the sole species in Polynesia, where it lives deep underground on Fiji. Sea kraits are found in coastal areas of southern Asia through Southeast Asia, Melanesia, and Polynesia. Seasnakes are abundant on coral reefs in the warm waters around northern Australia, New Guinea, Indonesia, the Philippines, and all of Southeast Asia. A few species exist as far west as the Persian Gulf and as far east as French Polynesia. Only one species, the yellow-bellied seasnake (Pelamis platurus), extends beyond this region, and it is the only open-water or pelagic species. This snake is found in warm waters from the east coast of Africa to the west coast of North and Central America in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. It is almost certainly the most widely distributed snake species. No seasnakes are known to exist in the Atlantic Ocean.

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