(Baird & Girard, 1853)
Micrurus tener is a species of venomous elapid snake. It is a relatively common and widespread snake found in the Southern United States and northeastern and central Mexico. There are four subspecies; the nominal subspecies found in both the US and Mexico is commonly known as the Texas coral snake.
It ranges from the southern United States south to northeastern and central Mexico. It inhabits the states of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosí, Guanajuato, Querétaro and Morelos.
The Texas coral snake has the traditional coloration associated with coral snakes, with black, yellow and red banding. It is capable of growing to 40 in (100 cm) in length, but most are closer to 24 in (61 cm). Males are typically smaller than females. They have smooth scales, a rounded head, and eyes with round pupils. Albino (lacking black pigment) and anerythristic (lacking red pigment) specimens have been found in the wild.
All coral snakes are shy, secretive animals, typically nocturnal. They spend most of their time hiding in leaf litter, under logs, or in burrows in the ground.
Their primary diet consists of other snakes, primarily earth snakes, and other small fossorial species. They will also occasionally eat small lizards, but the consumption of rodents by coral snakes is rare.
Texas coral snake venom is a powerful neurotoxin, causing neuromuscular dysfunction. No deaths from coral snake bites have been reported in the United States since coral snake antivenom has been available to hospitals. The coral snake resembles other, nonvenomous snakes. This resemblance of colors has resulted in the popular saying, "Red on black, you're OK jack. Red on yellow, you're a dead fellow." Prior to the availability of antivenom, the fatality rate of coral snake envenomations is estimated at 10%, and death was primarily due to respiratory or cardiovascular failure.
A coral snake (genus Micrurus) is proteroglyphous, meaning it has a pair of hollow, small, fixed fangs in the front of its upper jaw, through which the venom is injected and encouraged via a chewing motion. Due to this method of venom delivery, a coral snake must bite and hold on for a brief time to deliver a significant amount of venom, unlike a viper, which can simply strike and introduce a large amount of venom at once. Many bites from coral snakes do not inject any venom at all, and the small size of coral snakes makes their ability to bite humans rather limited. However, a bite from any coral snake should be considered extremely serious, and medical treatment should be sought immediately. This is because symptoms of envenomation are known to sometimes delay manifestation for as long as 12 hours, but once present, often progress rapidly.
There are four recognized subspecies of Micrurus tener:
- Micrurus tener tener (Baird & Girard, 1853)
- Micrurus tener fitzingeri (Jan, 1858)
- Micrurus tener maculatus Roze, 1967
- Micrurus tener microgalbineus Brown & H.M. Smith, 1942
The Texas coral snake was once considered the same species as the Eastern coral snake, Micrurus fulvius, but more recent research has determined that it has enough morphological differences to be considered its own species.
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