Greater black krait

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Greater black krait
Black krait (Bungarus niger).jpg
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Genus: Bungarus
Species: B. niger
Binomial name
Bungarus niger
Wall, 1908

The greater black krait (Bungarus niger) is a species of krait, a venomous elapid snake.


This species is medium in length, slender-bodied, and triangular in cross-section, with a short, pointed tail. It can grow to a maximum of about 1.3 m (4.3 ft), but adults usually average around 0.8 m (2.6 ft). The head is flat and slightly distinct from the neck. The eyes are small to medium in size, black with round pupils. Dorsal scales are smooth and glossy with scales of the vertebral row enlarged and hexagonal. Dorsal scale count is 15 - 15 - 15.[1] It is syntopic with the lesser black krait (Bungarus lividus), but can be separated by the enlarged dorsal vertebral scales. The number of ventral and subcaudals are higher than in all other Bungarus species (216-231 ventrals and 47-57 subcaudals).[2]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

It is found in India mainly along the sub-Himalayas from Uttarakhand in the west to Arunachal Pradesh as well as in Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.[3] The species was described by Frank Wall from a specimen obtained from near Tindharia near Darjeeling.[4] and the species is also available at Jalpaiguri town and other parts of the district. This species inhabits a wide variety of habitats from mangrove swamps to inhabited villages to montane forests up to elevations of 1,500 m (4,900 ft) above sea level on the Himalayan foothills.[5]

Behavior and ecology[edit]

This nocturnal and terrestrial snake has an inoffensive disposition. When disturbed, it coils loosely and hides its head beneath its body; it is reluctant to bite except upon persistent provocation. It preys mostly on snakes and small mammals and occasionally lizards, frogs, and fish.[1]


Its venom consists of both pre- and postsynaptic neurotoxins, and may also contain myotoxins. This snake is often overlooked, but it is a medically important species, as it has caused many bites; the mortality rate associated with it is not known, but is said to be quite high.[1][5]


  1. ^ a b c "Bungarus niger - General details". Clinical Toxinology Resource. University of Adelaide. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  2. ^ Emmanuel Theophilus, Ashok Captain, Frank Tillack, Ulrich Kuch (2008) Reptilia, Elapidae, Bungarus niger: Distribution extension and first record for the state of Uttarakhand, India, with notes on snakebites in the Gori River valley. Check List 4(4):404–409 full text
  3. ^ Bungarus niger at the Reptile Database. Accessed 18 November 2013.
  4. ^ Whitaker, Captain, Romulus, Ashok (2004). Snakes of India, The Field Guide. India: Draco Books. ISBN 81-901873-0-9. 
  5. ^ a b Ghose, A. "Black snakes at night Bungarus niger, an overlooked cause of snakebite envenoming in South Asia". Retrieved 17 April 2012. 


  • Grosselet, O., M. Vauche, A. Gupta & S. Gupta. 2004. Bungarus niger Wall, 1908 (Reptilia: Serpentes: Elapidae): Extension of range to Cachar district, Assam, India. Russ. J. Herpetol. 11(1):10-11.
  • Slowinski, J. B. 1994. A phylogenetic analysis of Bungarus (Elapidae) based on morphological characters. Journal of Herpetology 28(4):440-446.
  • Tillack, Frank and Wolfgang Grossmann. 2001. Ein neuer Nachweis zur Schlangenfauna Nepals: Bungarus niger Wall, 1908 (Reptilia: Serpentes: Elapidae). Sauria 23(1):3-9.
  • Wall, F. 1908. A popular treatise of the common Indian snakes. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 18:711-735.