Species of Thailand

Malaysian blue coral snake

Calliophis bivirgatus, Heinrich Boie, 1827

(In Thai: งูพริกท้องแดง, ngu phrik thong daeng)

Calliophis bivirgatus is a species of snake in the family Elapidae known commonly as the blue coral snake or blue Malayan coral snake. It is native to Southeast Asia.

Geographic range and distribution

This terrestrial snake occurs in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Burma. It lives at 100 to 1100 meters in elevation.

There are three subspecies:

  • C. b. bivirgatus – Indonesia
  • C. b. flaviceps – Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Burma
  • C. b. tetrataenia – Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei

Description

This species was assigned to the new world coral snake genus Maticora until phylogenetic studies revealed this species to be nested within the tropical coral snake species clade Calliophis and sister species to Calliophis intestinalis, the banded Malaysian coral snake.

This is a medium-sized coral snake with a slender body. The adult can reach 1.8 meters long. It has a red head, tail and belly. The back is dark blue to black in color, and it usually has a large blue or white stripe on each flank.

The snake, especially when juvenile, is often confused with the pink-headed reed snake (Calamaria schlegeli) as they share similar habitat and appearance. But the latter is much smaller, reaching a maximum length of 50 cm. The reed snake is nonvenomous, while the coral snake is potentially lethal. They also are very similar to another venomous snake, the red-headed krait (Bungarus flaviceps).

Biology

This uncommon snake is considered semi-fossorial and is found in the leaf litter of primary and secondary forests. It preys on other snakes. When threatened it usually flees, but it may remain in place with its red tail erect as a defensive message.

Venom

Blue coral snake venom has only occasionally caused human deaths. This species has unusually long venom glands, extending to 25% of the length of the body. Unlike other snakes of the family Elapidae, its venom does not contain a neurotoxin. The toxic element is instead a unique cytotoxin called calliotoxin that causes near instantaneous paralysis by blocking the victims sodium channels. Phosphodiesterases promote the release of adenosine, which causes hypotension, inflammation, and neurotransmitter blockade in prey items and other bite victims. This ability is especially important as their prey consists mostly of other venomous snakes. There is no known antidote, though there is hope that the venom may eventually prove useful in the management of chronic pain in humans.

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Scientific classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Subphylum
Vertebrata
Class
Reptilia
Order
Squamata
Suborder
Serpentes
Family
Elapidae
Genus
Calliophis
Species
Calliophis bivirgatus

Common names

  • German: Blaue Bauchdrüsenotter
  • English:
    • Blue Malaysian coral snake
    • Blue long-glanded coral snake
  • Thai: งูพริกท้องแดง, ngu phrik thong daeng

Subspecies

  • Calliophis bivirgata bivirgata, Friedrich Boie, 1827

    Range: Indonesia (Java)

  • Calliophis bivirgata flaviceps, Theodore Edward Cantor, 1839

    Range: South Thailand, W Malaysia, Singapore, Burma, Indonesia (fide Merel J. Cox et al.)

  • Calliophis bivirgata tetrataenia, Pieter Bleeker, 1859

    Range: Indonesia (Kalimantan, Borneo); Brunei Darussalam; Malaysia (East Malaysia)

Synonyms

  • Calliophis bivirgatus, Van Stanley Bartholomew Wallach et al. (2014)
  • Calliophis bivirgata flaviceps, Livigni (2013)
  • Calliophis bivirgatus, David J. Gower et al. (2012)
  • Maticora bivirgata tetrataenia, Mark Auliya (2006)
  • Maticora bivirgata flaviceps, Gernot Vogel & Freed (2006)
  • Calliophis bivirgata tetrataenia, Rudolf Malkmus et al. (2002)
  • Calliophis bivirgata (tetrataenia), Joseph Bruno Slowinski et al. (2001)
  • Calliophis bivirgatus, Joseph Bruno Slowinski et al. (2001)
  • Maticora bivirgata flaviceps, Tanya Chan-Ard et al. (1999)
  • Maticora bivirgata flaviceps, Merel J. Cox et al. (1998)

Conservation status

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)

Photos

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Blue Malaysian coral snake

Range Map

Distribution map of Malaysian blue coral snake, Calliophis bivirgatus in Thailand
  • Betong District, Yala
  • Chana District, Songkhla
  • Hala-Bala Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Kaeng Krachan National Park
  • Khao Chong
  • Khao Phanom Bencha National Park
  • Khao Pu - Khao Ya National Park
  • Saba Yoi District, Songkhla
  • Sadao District, Songkhla
  • Thale Ban National Park
  • Thung Yang Daeng District, Pattani
  • Ton Nga-Chang Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Waeng District, Narathiwat
  • Yan Ta Khao District, Trang
Range map of Calliophis bivirgatus in Thailand