Calliophis bivirgata

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Calliophis bivirgata
C bivirgatus.jpg
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Genus: Calliophis
Species: C. bivirgata
Binomial name
Calliophis bivirgata
(F. Boie, 1827)
  • Elaps bivirgatus F. Boie, 1827
  • Callophis bivirgatus Günther, 1864
  • Adeniophis (Callophis) bivirgatus Stoliczka, 1873
  • Adeniophis bivirgatus
    Boettger, 1887
  • Doliophis bivirgatus
    Boulenger, 1896
  • Maticora bivirgata
    Stejneger, 1922
  • Calliophis bivirgatus
    Slowinski et al. 2001

Calliophis bivirgata, commonly called the blue Malayan coral snake is a species of venomous elapid snake found in South East Asia.[2]

Geographic range and distribution[edit]

This terrestrial snake is restricted to South East Asia and occurs between 100-1100m above sea level.[1]

There are currently three subspecies known. The first sub species C. b. bivirgatus which is found in Java-western Indonesia. The second sub species C. b. flaviceps is found across Indonesia (Sumatra, Borneo, Bangka Is., Lingga Archipelago, Nias, Mentawai Archipelago, Riau Archipelago; Cambodia; West Malaysia (Malaya); Singapore and Thailand. The third sub species C. b. tetrataenia is found in Borneo,.[2][3]


It is a medium-sized coral snake with a slender body which 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.[4]

Adult snakes are are usually about 140 centimetres (5 ft) long. Dorsal coloration is indigo or deep blue with light blue or white stripes along each side of the body (C. b. flaviceps). It has a blunt snout and small eyes. The head, venter, and tail are usually bright red. The dorsal part of the tail has a black stripe running till the tip,.[2][3]

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, maximum 50 cm (20 in), than fully grown Calliophis bivirgatus. It may be dangerous to confuse these two species as the reed snake is a nonvenomous snake, whereas the blue Malaysian coral snake has a potentially lethal venom,.[2][3]

Adult Blue Malayan Coral Snake from Singapore.
The Pink Headed Reed Snake from Singapore.

Pictures of Blue Malayan Coral Snake (above) and Pink Headed Reed Snake (below) for comparison.


This uncommon snake is considered semi-fossorial and is found in the leaf litter of primary and secondary forests.[1]

Behavior and ecology[edit]

It primarily feeds on snakes, including its own species. When disturbed, it attempts to flee away. Like many other snakes including the New World coral snakes (genus Micrurus), they appear to use aposematic displays for defense. When threatened, they flip over and expose the brightly colored ventral side defends itself by displaying its brightly colored body. They sometimes coil themselves and keep their tail erect to scare away potential threats such as predators.[2]


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. The venom glands of this species are exceptionally long and extend beyond the jaw for one-third the length of the body.[5]

A chemical analysis of the venom by fractionation with a Sephadex column has identified five different fractions, S1-S5. Fraction S2 contains two phospholipases A2PLA2 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 Calliophis bivirguatus is closely related to Bungarinae, especially to genera Hemachatus and Naja.


  1. ^ a b c Grismer, L. & Chan-Ard, T. (2012). "Calliophis bivirgata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 2 November 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e
  3. ^ a b c Uetz, P. & Jirí Hošek (eds.), The Reptile Database,, accessed Dec 8, 2014
  4. ^ J. B. Slowinski, J. Boundy and R. Lawson. 2001. The Phylogenetic Relationships of Asian Coral Snakes (Elapidae: Calliophis and Maticora) Based on Morphological and Molecular Characters. Herpetologica, Vol. 57, No. 2, pp. 233-245
  5. ^

Further reading[edit]

  • Boie F. 1827. "Bemerkungen über Merrem's Versuchs eines Systems der Amphibien. 1te Lieferung: Ophidier ". Isis von Oken 20: 508-566. (Elaps bivirgatus, p. 556).
  • Boulenger GA. 1896. Catalogue of the Snakes in the British Museum (Natural History). Volume III., Containing the Colubridæ (Opisthoglyphæ and Proteroglyphæ), ... London: Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History). (Taylor and FRancis, printers). xiv + 727 pp. + Plates I-XXV. (Doliophis bivirgatus, pp. 400–401).
  • Das I. 2006. A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Borneo. Sanibel Island, Florida: Ralph Curtis Books. 144 pp. ISBN 0-88359-061-1. (Calliophis bivirgata [sic], p. 61).
  • Oshea, Mark; Halliday, Tim; Metcalf, Jonathan (editor). 2002. Reptiles and Amphibians: Smithsonian Handbooks. London: DK (Dorling Kinderley). 256 pp. ISBN 9780789493934.

External links[edit]