Striped Coral Snake ( Calliophis nigrescens Günther, 1862 )

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Name
Scientific Name: 
Calliophis nigrescens (Günther, 1862)
Regional Names: 
English: 
Black Coral Snake
Kannada: 
ಪಟ್ಟೆಕಡಲ ಹಾವು
Photographs: 
Distribution: 
Found in moderate to high elevations of whole of Western Ghats up to Gujarat.
Venom Type: 
Neurotoxic
Family: 
Characteristics for identification: 

Morphologically it is known for multiple forms of patterns and colors, usually can be identified by checking broken or unbroken stripes along the body which is uniformly slender and thin. In scalation it can be differentiated from its closest species Beddome's Coral (C. beddomei) by checking no contact of supralabial with prefrontal which exists in later.

Description: 

Average length- 60cm.
Maximum length- 114cm.
This is the largest Calliophis (Coral Snake) of India.

Dorsal –
Body much longer than thickness, uniformly slender or cylindrical and covered with subequal smooth scales. There are three major forms found in South India. First (pentalineatus) have three or five prominent transverse stripes of black color on brick red, light red, reddish brown or yellow dorsal body which reduces to three on tail. In second form stripes are hardly visible and gives feel of uniformly bluish-black dorsal body. First row of dorsal body similar to belly color in this form. In third variety (khandallensis) upper side bluish-black above with broken and indistinct stripes margined with white. The top stripe usually remain most connect and other one or two on each side may remain broken in series of patch form.

Ventral -
Belly uniform warm red or reddish-orange with black or brown edge sometimes.

Head –
Head moderate, blunt on snout and scarcely broader than neck. Ground colour black with more or less indistinct yellowish-brown patches at random places arranged in symmetrical manner. Nape bears a thick black bar which is origin of dorsal stripes. A more or less visible V shaped collar present between bar and head which is disconnected on top. Upper lip scales yellow or pinkish, scales under eyes and angle of mouth black. Eyes small and entirely black.

Tail –
Short and thick tails ends with rounded tip. Dorsal stripes (if any) continue here in visible form. Tail in the first and third form reduced to only three stripes. Underside of it have white color with reddish patches in comb manner.

Scalation
Head: 
Supralabial 7; 3rd & 4th in contact with eyes; 5th-7th in contact with temporal; preocular 1, in contact with nasal hence loreal absent; temporal 1 or 1+2.
Dorsal: 
Smooth scales in 13:13:13 rows.
Ventral: 
234-251; anal divided.
Sub Caudal: 
29-48; paired.
Habitat: 
Lives in moderate to high elevations of evergreen, semi-evergreen, mixed, moist deciduous forests and plantations (Cardamom and Tea) of Western Ghats of 200-2000 meter elevation. Found in dense leaf litters, loose roots under vegetation, under fallen logs, heavy rocks, holes etc.
Natural History: 
Nocturnal and semi-fossorial. Spends most of life underground and seen usually during monsoon months. Behavior shy, elusive and usually non-offensive. First try to escape under heavy objects or hide itself in very loose soil but on provocation coil its tail and few portion of posterior body to show aggression. Oviparous. Female lays eggs under loose soil, holes, cracks of ground, cavities of wooden logs etc.
Diet: 
Feeds mainly on other snakes including venomous ones, probably on termites, skinks etc.
Threats: 
Direct threats includes killing on encounter on agricultural fields of its range; this includes intentional killing or due to digging process. Road kill mortality and habitat destruction are additional causes affecting its population in many parts of its range.
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