Slender Coral Snake ( Calliophis melanurus Shaw, 1802 )

  • Sharebar
Scientific Name: 
Calliophis melanurus (Shaw, 1802)
Regional Names: 
Indian Coral Snake
ನೀಳ ಹವಳದ ಹಾವು
પાતળો પ્રવાર સાપ
रातसर्प (Raatsarp), पोवळा (Powla/Povla)
Ezhuthanimoorkhan, Pavizhapampu
Top Body shot. Mumbai, Maharashtra
Considered to be distributed throughout the peninsular India up to Southern parts of West Bengal in patched form. Also found in Sri Lanka.
Venom Type: 
Characteristics for identification: 

Morphologically it can be identified by jet black head patched with white and dorsal body of plain grayish-brown color followed by black tail which is also patched with brown or white and ends with blunt tip.


Average length- 30cm.
Maximum length- 57cm.

Dorsal -
Body slender with subequal smooth scales. Color uniform grayish-brown with reddish ting. Each dorsal scale dotted with single blackish dot on the tip.

Ventral -
Belly uniform warm red or orange mixed with red; white margin may exist between side dorsals and ventral surface.

Head -
Head blunt with rounded snout; not clearly distinct from neck. Color jet black upto neck, with or without white collar. Two white spots near temporal and one rounded patch on the top of neck present in most of specimens; few white patches may also present on lip and side of neck. Eyes small and entirely black.

Tail -
Very short tail with blunt end. Bears three or four distinctly colored region of black, brown and white.

6 supralabial; 3rd & 4th in contact with eyes, 5th & 6th in contact with temporals; preocular 1; loreal absent hence preocular directly touches nasal; postocular 2; temporal 1+1.
Smooth scales in 13: 13: 13 rows.
249-277 (India); 229-257 (Sri Lanka), anal divided.
Sub Caudal: 
33-37 (Male) 24-27 (Female) for India; 27-37 for Sri Lanka; paired.
Lives both in plains and hills. Distributed in variety of forests including rainforest, mixed, moist and dry deciduous forests of peninsular India. Habitat includes agricultural lands, gardens, both dense & open forests etc. Micro habitat includes loose and moist soil, insect holes, under buries leaf litter, under loose root of plans etc.
Natural History: 
Slender Coral is a nocturnal and burrowing snake which sometime shows activity during daylight having low temperature. Spend most of its life as a burrower and occasionally comes on ground. Behavior shy, elusive and usually non-offensive. First try to escape under heavy objects but on provocation coil its tail and few portion of posterior body to show aggression which is mainly done by display of vibrant colors of underside of tail and rest of belly. Mating not much known. Lays 2-4 eggs under dense leaf litters, insect hole or very narrow and deep cracks.
Feeds on termites, insect eggs, narrow bodied insects, small snakes etc.
Bite symptoms: 

Very few bite cases have been recorded from Slender Coral. Strictly non fatal according to current publications and bite victims. On rough handling it can bite on thin parts of holder’s hand. After bite itching, swelling observed as quick response. Interruption in breathing occurs after 20-30 min of bite which may retain up to 3 hours. (As told by Devdutt Shelke and Pratik Pradhan, both faced Slender Coral bite)

Apart from road kill mortality other threats are digging its micro habitat to disturb the micro ecosystem essential for its life.
Look Alike