Calliophis bivirgatus (*)
Calliophis bivirgatus, Maticora bivirgata, or the Blue Malaysian Coral Snake is a venomous elapid snake found in Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. It was first identified in print by Friedrich Boie in 1827.
It is a medium-sized coral snake with a slender body. Adults are usually 140 centimetres (5 ft) in length, though larger specimens have been captured. The color is indigo or deep blue with light blue or white stripes along each side of the body. The head, venter, and tail are usually bright red. It has a blunt snout with a pair of small eyes on the sides of the head.
The snake, especially its juveniles, is often confused with the Pink-headed Reed Snake (Calamaria schlegeli) as they share similar habitat and appearance. But the latter is much smaller (max. 50 cm) than fully grown Calliophis bivirgatus, and it may be dangerous to confuse these two species as the Reed Snake is a non-venomous snake whereas the Blue Malaysian coral snake has a potentially lethal venom.
Distribution and habitat
It is found in Malaysia, Thailand, and western Indonesia. It inhabits humid conditions, such as forest floor.
It is most active at night. Like the Banded Krait, it is a timid snake during daytime and tends to avoid confrontation. However, it becomes more alert after nightfall. People are usually bitten at night when they pass by or tread on the snake unaware.
Like the Coral Snake in the New World, it defends itself by displaying its brightly colored body. It also turns upside down to show its red belly to warn predators, hiding its head under coils of its own body and raising its tail to mimic a head to confuse predator.
It feeds almost exclusively on other snakes, including their own kind. They occasionally consume lizards, frogs and birds.
The venom is very potent and has caused deaths. Like other elapidae, its venom is primarily neurotoxic. The bite initially has few or even no symptoms. However, after several minutes, the victim may feel numbness near the wound and lip. Soon, the victim may feel difficulty in breathing. Death is a result of respiratory failure.
A chemical analysis of the venom by fractionation with a Sephadex column has identified five different fractions, S1-S5. Fraction S2 contains two phospholipases A2 — PLA2 I and PLA2 II; fraction S3 contains four cytotoxin homologues — maticotoxins A, C, D1 and D2; and fractions S4 and S5 contain a large amount (about 1 mg/specimen) of adenosine with smaller amounts of inosine and guanosine. The amino-terminal amino acid sequences of PLA2, I, PLA2 II and maticotoxin A suggest that Maticora bivirgata is closely related to Bungarinae, especially to genera Hemachatus and Naja.
* Calliophis bivirgatus BOIE, 1827, The Reptile Database
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