Sistrurus catenatus

How is the Massasauga Classified?


This graphic is a phylogenetic tree I made on Microsoft Word that shows the classification of the massasauga from Domain to Class based on morphology.  Click on the image to make it larger.  This image shows what groups the massasauga falls into, but if you read on, you'll learn about why it's in those groups.                          

This graphic shows some of the closer relatives of the massasauga rattlesnake and its sub-species.  Click the image to view the classification from the Class level on down to the sub-species level.  I made this chart in Microsoft Word as well, and it is also based on morphological characteristics.                        

The massasauga rattlesnake is classified as follows:

Domain: Eukarya Because the massasauga’s cells have a true nucleus, membrane-bound organelles, and multiply via mitosis.

Kingdom: Animalia  This snake is considered an animal because it is multi-cellular, heterotrophic, motile in at least 1 stage of its lifecycle, and doesn’t have cell walls around its cells.

Phylum: Chordata   It is considered a Chordate because it has a notochord (a rod down its dorsal side), pharyngeal pouches, an endostyle (basically a thyroid gland), a dorsal nerve chord, and a post-anal tail.

Class: Reptilia  The massasauga is a reptile because it has dry, rough scales made of keratin and its young develop in amniotic eggs.

Order: Squamata  The massasauga is a member of this order because it has a transverse cloacal opening, a highly moveable skull in comparison to other reptiles, and it sheds its skin throughout its life.

 Family: Viperidae Massasaugas are considered to be in this family because they have hollow fangs that fold back into the mouth, venom, keeled scales (their scales have a small ridge on them that give them a rough feeling), their scale pattern and color are used for camouflage, a triangular head, and they are ovoviviparous (their young are basically born live).

Genus: Sistrurus Massasaugas have 9 enlarged scales at the top of their
 heads which puts them into this genus.  They are also referred to as pygmy rattlesnakes, because they have a rattle on their tail.

Species: S. catenatus catenatus The scientific name of the massasauga comes from the Latin words Sistrum and oura which mean “rattle” and “tail” respectively, and catenatus, which means chained.  The chained part describes the patterns on the back of the massasauga.

Ok, so now that you know how the massasauga is classified, why not learn more about where it lives by going on to the Habitat page?  Click here!