Coral snakes

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Coral snakes belong to the Class Reptilia and family Elapidae. 11 species are known under the Old World category under a single genus Calliophis while 65 for the New World with three genera. They are recognized by presence of white, red, black banding patterns over their bodies. In some areas the pattern of banding will help in differentiation of non-venomous species from the venomous ones. They’re natives of North America. Those found in other parts of world have different banding patterns and in some no banding is present at all. New World coral snakes inhabit the temperate region of United States. Arizona coral snakes are distributed in the southern and western area of Arizona.

The North American species do not grow more than 3 feet but specimens of 5 feet long coral snakes are found. Aquatic species have flat tails that behave as fin during swimming. The behaviour of these snakes is variable. They are quite elusive, fossorial snakes which spend most of their time by remaining buried in the ground or in the leaf litter of rainforests coming just during heavy showers of rain or during the breeding season. Some species are aquatic and reside in slow flowing water streams with dense vegetation. They are venomous and like all elapids have fangs behaving as hypodermic needles for injecting venom into the body of their victim. The fangs remain permanently erect and are present in the peak of the upper jaw. Venom is very effective and is first injected into the body of the prey before swallowing.

They have the propensity to hold the victim after biting it. They seldom bite and less than 1% deaths are recorded by the bite of these snakes in the United States. New world snakes are dispersed in different parts of the temperate United States particularly of the southern range. Most of the sting of coral snake in United States is caused by accidental contact of persons with the snake during gardening. New World snakes have the potent venom than some of the North American snake next to that of the rattle snake. 3-5 mg of venom of the organism can kill a human being. Most venomous snakes inject 75-100 mg venom from the body of the sufferer to cause death of victim. When encountered with humans they attempt to run and snack very rarely merely to protect them. They have short fangs incapable to permeate into leather covering. Their venom is neurotoxic affecting the nervous system of victim so heavy doses of antivenom are required in order to save victim’s life. This is a rare instance of Mertensian mimicry. There are a few non-venomous species whose pattern appears to mimic that of coral snakes.

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