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Coral snake

Coral Snakes

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Genus: Leptomicrurus


Over 65, see article.

The coral snakes are a large group of elapid snakes that can be divided into two distinct groups, New World coral snakes and Old World coral snakes. There are three genera among New World coral snakes that consist of over 65 recognized species.

Coral snakes are most notable for their red, yellow/white, and black colored banding. Several nonvenomous species have similar coloration, however, including the Scarlet Kingsnake and the Milk Snake. In some regions, the order of the bands distinguishes between the non-venomous mimics and the venomous coral snakes, inspiring some folk rhymes — "Red and yellow, kill a fellow, red and black, venom lack". However, this only reliably applies to coral snakes in North America: Micrurus fulvius, Micrurus tener, and Micruroides euryxantus, found in the south and eastern United States. Coral snakes found in other parts of the world can have distinctly different patterns, and can even have red bands touching black bands, have only pink and blue banding, or have no banding at all.

Most species of coral snake are small in size. North American species average around 24" in length, but specimens of up to 60" or slightly larger have been reported. Aquatic species have flattened tails, to act as a fin, aiding in swimming.

Additional recommended knowledge



Coral snakes vary widely in their behavior, but most are very elusive, fossorial snakes which spend the vast majority of their time buried in the ground or in leaf litter of a rainforest floor, only coming to the surface during rains or during breeding season. Some species, like Micrurus surinamensis are almost entirely aquatic and spend most of their lives in slow moving bodies of water that have dense vegetation.

Like all elapid snakes, coral snakes use a pair of small fangs, which are fixed in the front of their top jaw, to deliver their venom. Due to the time it takes for the venom to take effect, coral snakes have a tendency to hold on to a victim when biting, unlike vipers which have retractable fangs and tend to prefer to strike and let go immediately. Coral snakes are not aggressive or prone to biting however, and account for less than a single percent of the number of snake bites each year in the United States. Most coral snake bites occur because of accidental handling of the snake while engaged in an activity like gardening.



Due to the small size of coral snakes, along with their having much smaller fangs than pit vipers, bites are frequently ineffective and have some difficulty penetrating shoes or even thick clothing. This along with the fact that coral snakes are not aggressive creatures and reclusive makes bites quite rare. However, coral snakes are highly venomous, being the only relative of the cobra found in the New World. Despite their relatively small size, their venom is a powerful neurotoxin, quite capable of killing an adult human. No deaths related to coral snake bites have been reported in the United States since coral snake antivenin became available. Before that time, the estimated case fatality rate was 10%. Any bite from a coral snake should be considered life threatening and immediate treatment should be sought. Often there is very little reaction around the bite area, as opposed to the pain and swelling usually associated with a viper bite, and systemic effects can delay manifestation for 8-24 hours. This potential delay in symptoms makes treating coral snake bites particularly tricky, and often results in preventative treatment whether one is displaying symptoms or not. Once the neurotoxin takes effect, it causes the neurotransmitters between the brain and muscles to malfunction. Initially symptoms are slurred speech, double vision, difficulty swallowing, but can quickly progress to muscular paralysis, and even respiratory or cardiac failure if not treated.[1]

Wyeth manufactures a North American coral snake antivenom, also Instituto Bioclon manufactures an antivenom for coral snake species found in Mexico. A third type of antivenom is manufactured in Brazil to treat bites from some coral snake species found there. Unfortunately, no one antivenom is effective against all coral snake envenomations, and due to the relative rarity of bites from coral snakes and high cost of the antivenom, few hospitals stock it.


Genus Leptomicrurus:

  • Guyana Blackback Coral Snake, Leptomicrurus collaris - northern South America.
  • Leptomicrurus collaris collaris (Schlegel, 1837)
  • Leptomicrurus collaris breviventris (Roze & Bernal-Carlo, 1987)
  • Andes/Andean Blackback Coral Snake, Leptomicrurus narduccii
  • Leptomicrurus narduccii narduccii (Jan, 1863)
  • Leptomicrurus narduccii melanotus (Peters, 1881)

Genus Micruroides:

  • Arizona Coral Snake, Micruroides euryxanthus - lowland regions from Arizona to Sinaloa.
  • Micruroides euryxanthus australis (Zweifel & Norris, 1955)
  • Micruroides euryxanthus euryxanthus (Kennicott, 1860)
  • Micruroides euryxanthus neglectus (Roze, 1967)

Genus Micrurus:

  • Allen's Coral Snake, Micrurus alleni - eastern Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.
  • Micrurus alleni alleni (Schmidt, 1936)
  • Micrurus alleni richardi (Taylor, 1951)
  • Micrurus alleni yatesi (Taylor, 1954)
  • Micrurus altirostris (Cope, 1860) - Brazil, Uruguay, and northeastern Argentina.
  • Regal Coral Snake, Micrurus ancoralis - southeastern Panama, western Colombia, and western Ecuador
  • Micrurus ancoralis jani (Schmidt, 1936)
  • Micrurus ancoralis ancoralis (Jan, 1872)
  • Annellated Coral Snake, Micrurus annellatus - southeastern Ecuador, eastern Peru, Bolivia, and western Brazil.
  • Micrurus annellatus annellatus (Peters, 1871)
  • Micrurus annellatus balzanii (Boulenger, 1898)
  • Micrurus annellatus bolivianus (Roze, 1967)
  • Black-headed Coral Snake, Micrurus averyi (Schmidt, 1939)
  • Micrurus bernadi (Cope, 1887) - Mexico.
  • Ecuadorian Coral Snake, Micrurus bocourti (Jan, 1872) - western Ecuador to northern Colombia,
  • Bogert's Coral Snake, Micrurus bogerti (Roze, 1967) - Oaxaca.
  • Brown's Coral Snake, Micrurus browni - Quintana Roo to Honduras.
  • Micrurus browni browni (Schmidt & Smith, 1943)
  • Micrurus browni importunus (Roze, 1967)
  • Micrurus browni Taylori (Schmidt & Smith, 1943)
  • Micrurus camilae (Renjifo & Lundberg, 2003) - Colombia.
  • Catamayo Coral Snake, Micrurus catamayensis (Roze, 1989) - Catamayo Valley of Ecuador.
  • Clark's Coral Snake, Micrurus clarki (Schmidt, 1936) - southeastern Costa Rica to western Colombia.
  • Painted Coral Snake, Micrurus corallinus (Merrem, 1820)
  • Brazilian Coral Snake, Micrurus decoratus (Jan, 1858)
  • Micrurus diana (Roze, 1983
  • Variable Coral Snake, Micrurus diastema
  • Micrurus diastema diastema (Duméril, Bibron, & Duméril, 1854)
  • Micrurus diastema aglaeope (Cope, 1859)
  • Micrurus diastema alienus (Werner, 1903)
  • Micrurus diastema affinis (Jan, 1858)
  • Micrurus diastema apiatus (Jan, 1858)
  • Micrurus diastema macdougalli (Roze, 1967)
  • Micrurus diastema sapperi (Werner, 1903)
  • Pygmy Coral Snake , Micrurus dissoleucus
  • Micrurus dissoleucus dissoleucus (Cope, 1860)
  • Micrurus dissoleucus dunni (Barbour, 1923)
  • Micrurus dissoleucus melanogenys (Cope, 1860)
  • Micrurus dissoleucus meridensis (Roze, 1989)
  • Micrurus dissoleucus nigrirostris (Schmidt, 1955)
  • West Mexican Coral Snake, Micrurus distans
  • Micrurus distans distans (Kennicott, 1860)
  • Micrurus distans michoacanensis (Duges, 1891)
  • Micrurus distans oliveri (Roze, 1967)
  • Micrurus distans zweifeli (Roze, 1967)
  • Micrurus dumerilii
  • Micrurus dumerili antioquiensis (Schmidt, 1936)
  • Micrurus dumerili carinicaudus (Schmidt, 1936)
  • Micrurus carinicauda (Schmidt, 1936)
  • Micrurus dumerili colombianus (Griffin, 1916)
  • Micrurus dumerili transandinus (Schmidt, 1936)
  • Micrurus dumerili venezuelensis (Roze, 1989)
  • Elegant Coral Snake, Micrurus elegans
  • Micrurus elegans elegans (Jan, 1858)
  • Micrurus elegans veraepacis (Schmidt, 1933)
  • Oaxacan Coral Snake, Micrurus ephippifer
  • Micrurus ephippifer zapotecus (Roze, 1989)
  • Micrurus ephippifer ephippifer (Cope, 1886)
  • Slender Coral Snake, Micrurus filiformis
  • Micrurus filiformis filiformis (Günther, 1859)
  • Micrurus filiformis subtilis (Roze, 1967
  • Southern Coral Snake, Micrurus frontalis - Brazil to northeastern Argentina.
  • Micrurus frontalis frontalis (Duméril, Bibron, & Duméril, 1854)
  • Micrurus frontalis brasiliensis (Roze, 1967)
  • Micrurus frontalis mesopotamicus (Barrio & Miranda 1967)
  • Micrurus hemprichii hemprichii (Jan, 1858)
  • Micrurus hemprichii ortoni (Schmidt, 1953)
  • Micrurus hemprichii rondonianus (Roze & Da Silva, 1990)
  • Mayan Coral Snake, Micrurus hippocrepis (Peters, 1862)
  • Caatinga Coral Snake, Micrurus ibiboboca (Merrem, 1820)
  • Venezuela Coral Snake, Micrurus isozonus (Cope, 1860)
  • Langsdorff's Coral Snake, Micrurus langsdorffi
  • Micrurus langsdorffi langsdorffi (Wagler, 1824)
  • Micrurus langsdorffi ornatissimus (Jan, 1858)
  • Balsan Coral Snake, Micrurus laticollaris
  • Micrurus laticollaris laticollaris (Peters, 1870)
  • Micrurus laticollaris maculirostris (Roze, 1967)
  • Broad-ringed Coral Snake, Micrurus latifasciatus (Schmidt, 1933)
  • South American Coral Snake, Micrurus lemniscatus - most of low lying areas of South America.
  • Micrurus lemniscatus lemniscatus (Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Micrurus lemniscatus carvalhoi (Roze, 1967)
  • Micrurus lemniscatus diutius (Burger, 1955)
  • Micrurus lemniscatus frontifasciatus (Werner, 1927)
  • Micrurus lemniscatus helleri (Schmidt & Schmidt, 1925)
  • Tuxtlan Coral Snake, Micrurus limbatus
  • Micrurus limbatus limbatus (Fraser, 1964)
  • Micrurus limbatus spilosomus (Perez-Higaredo & Smith, 1990)
  • Speckled Coral Snake, Micrurus margaritiferus (Roze, 1967)
  • Micrurus medemi (Roze, 1967)
  • Mertens' Coral Snake, Micrurus mertensi (Schmidt, 1936)
  • Redtail Coral Snake, Micrurus mipartitus
  • Micrurus mipartitus mipartitus (Duméril, Bibron, & Duméril, 1854)
  • Micrurus mipartitus anomalus (Boulenger, 1896)
  • Micrurus mipartitus decussatus (Duméril, Bibron, & Duméril, 1854)
  • Micrurus mipartitus semipartitus (Jan, 1858)
  • Many-banded Coral Snake, Micrurus multifasciatus
  • Micrurus multifasciatus multifasciatus (Jan, 1858)
  • Micrurus multifasciatus hertwigi (Werner, 1897)
  • Cauca Coral Snake, Micrurus multiscutatus (Rendahl & Vestergren, 1940)
  • Cloud Forest Coral Snake, Micrurus nebularis (Roze, 1989)
  • Central American Coral Snake, Micrurus nigrocinctus - Yucatan and Chiapas to Colombia as well as western Caribbean islands
  • Micrurus nigrocinctus babaspul (Roze, 1967)
  • Micrurus nigrocinctus coibensis (Schmidt, 1936)
  • Micrurus nigrocinctus divaricatus (Hallowell, 1855)
  • Micrurus nigrocinctus mosquitensis (Schmidt, 1933)
  • Micrurus nigrocinctus nigrocinctus (Girard, 1854)
  • Micrurus nigrocinctus ovandoensis (Schmidt & Smith, 1943)
  • Micrurus nigrocinctus wagneri (Mertens, 1941)
  • Micrurus nigrocinctus yatesi (Dunn, 1942)
  • Micrurus nigrocinctus zunilensis (Schmidt, 1932)
  • Micrurus pacaraimae (Morata de Carvalho, 2002)
  • Micrurus pachecogili (Campbell, 2000)
  • Micrurus paraensis (Da Cunha & Nascimento, 1973)
  • Peruvian Coral Snake, Micrurus peruvianus (Schmidt, 1936)
  • Peters' Coral Snake, Micrurus petersi (Roze, 1967)
  • Nayarit Coral Snake, Micrurus proximans (Smith & Chrapliwy, 1958)
  • Carib Coral Snake, Micrurus psyches
  • Micrurus psyches circinalis (Duméril, Bibron & Duméril, 1854)
  • Micrurus psyches donosoi (Hoge, Cordeiro, & Romano, 1976)
  • Micrurus psyches psyches (Daudin, 1803)
  • Putumayo Coral Snake, Micrurus putumayensis (Lancini, 1962)
  • Micrurus pyrrhocryptus (Cope, 1862)
  • Micrurus remotus (Roze, 1987)
  • Micrurus renjifoi (Lamar, 2003)
  • Roatan Coral Snake, Micrurus ruatanus (Günther, 1895)
  • Santander Coral Snake, Micrurus sangilensis (Nicéforo-Maria, 1942)
  • Micrurus scutiventris (Hoge, & Romano-Hoge, 1966)
  • Micrurus silviae Di-Bernardo et al., 2007
  • Amazon Coral Snake, Micrurus spixii
  • Micrurus spixii spixii (Wagler, 1824)
  • Micrurus spixiii martiusi (Schmidt, 1953)
  • Micrurus spixii obscurus (Jan, 1872)
  • Micrurus spixii princeps (Boulenger, 1905)
  • Micrurus spurelli (Boulenger, 1914)
  • Steindachner's Coral Snake, Micrurus steindachneri
  • Micrurus steindachneri steindachneri (Werner, 1901)
  • Micrurus steindachneri orcesi (Roze, 1967)
  • Panamenian Coral Snake, Micrurus stewarti (Barbour & Amaral, 1928)
  • Stuart's Coral Snake, Micrurus stuarti (Roze, 1967)
  • Aquatic Coral Snake, Micrurus surinamensis
  • Micrurus surinamensis surinamensis (Cuvier, 1817)
  • Micrurus surinamensis nattereri (Schmidt, 1952)
  • Micrurus tamaulipensis (Lavin-Murcio & Dixon, 2004) - Sierra Madre Oriental in Tamaulipas.


  • Texas Coral Snake, Micrurus tener - Texas and Louisiana south to Morelos and Guanajuato.
  • Micrurus tener fitzingeri (Jan, 1858)
  • Micrurus tener maculatus (Roze, 1967)
  • Micrurus tener microgalbineus (Brown, & Smith, 1942)
  • Micrurus tener tener (Baird, & Girard, 1853)
  • Micrurus tricolor (Hoge, 1956)
  • Desert Coral Snake, Micrurus tschudii (Jan, 1858)
  • Micrurus tschudii olssoni (Schmidt & Schmidt, 1925)
  • Micrurus tschudii tschudii (Jan, 1858)


New World coral snakes are known to mimic False coral snakes, snake species which are less poisonous. This is a rare example of Mertensian mimicry. Species of false coral snake include:

  • Erythrolamprus aesculapii
  • Erythrolamprus bizona
  • Erythrolamprus ocellatus (AKA Tobago False Coral)
  • Oxyrhopus petola


  • The European Molecular Biology Laboratory Reptile Database
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Coral_snake". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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