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Karyotypes are described for six species of snakes from the Western Hemisphere, and comparisons are made with all species of snakes from around the world that have been karyotyped with modern methods. Although there is significant karyotypic variation in snakes, there is one basic karyotype that is shared by members of all families of snakes, representing widely divergent lineages, extending from today back through the evolutionary history of the Serpentes. Long-term survival of the ancestral snake karyotype may be a result of canalization, similar to some ancient chromosomes of turtles.