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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024







Blue Malayan Coral Snake

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4

Species : Calliophis bivirgatus
Maximum Size : 1.8 metres

The Blue Malayan Coral Snake is a beautiful, but highly venomous, front-fanged elapid. It inhabits primary and secondary forest, in lowland and lower montane areas.

In common with many other elapids in Southeast Asia, its primary food source is other snakes.

It dwells amongst the leaf-litter on the forest floor, but seems to emerge early to mid-morning especially when night-time rain has made the leaf litter wet. Typically this snake is encountered crossing forest trails.

It is instantly recognisable by its red head, tail and belly. The dorsal surface is dark blue to black, and most populations have a broad blue stripe on each flank. Care should be taken not to mistake this species for the Pink-headed Reed Snake Calamaria schlegeli, however.

This snake generally flees when disturbed, but at other times may remain coiled on the ground with its tail erect as a warning.

There are 3 sub-species :

(i) C. b. bivirgatus which inhabits Java (this subspecies lacks blue stripes on the flanks).
(ii) C. b. flaviceps which occurs in Myanmar, southern Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Sumatra and various islands of the Riau Archipelago (this subspecies possesses a blue stripe on each flank).
(iii) C. b. tetrataenia in Borneo (this subspecies has a cream stripe on each flank, and no blue stripe).

Fig 1 : The bright red head, and deep blue body make the subspecies Calliophis bivirgatus flaviceps easy to identify.

Figs 2 and 3 : Full views of a typical specimen of C. b. flaviceps.

Fig 4 : Close-up of the red tail, which may be raised as a warning to potential predators.

References : H12