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IUCN Red List - Bungarus slowinskii - Vulnerable, VU

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Higher TaxaElapidae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Red River Krait 
SynonymBungarus slowinskii KUCH, KIZIRIAN, NGUYEN, LAWSON, DONNELLY & MEBS 2005
Bungarus slowinskii — WALLACH et al. 2014: 130 
DistributionN Vietnam (Yen Bai, Lao Cai, Quang Nam, Quang Tri, Thua Thien-Hue, Khammouane), Laos, NE Thailand (Nan)

Type locality: Vietnam, Yen Bai Province, Van Yen District, from a stream near Na Hau Commune, 21°46’N, 104°32’E, 540 m elevation.  
TypesHolotype: IEBR 1172 (original number LACM FS 843), adult male, Nguyen Q. T. and D. Kizirian, 1 Oct. 2001. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: A species of Bungarus, an elapid snake genus characterized by a middorsal row of enlarged, hexagonal scales, distinctive vertebrae with laterally expanded prezygapophysial and postzygapophysial processes and unusually high neural processes (Slowinski, 1994). Bungarus slowinskii differs from all congeners except B. bungaroides by the combination of wide black and narrow white rings on body and tail, dorsal scales arranged in 15 rows, divided subcaudals, and clear zone of demarcation between calyculate and spinose zones of hemipenis. Bungarus flaviceps differs from B. slowinskii in having dorsal scales arranged in 13 rows, a black body with or without light vertebral and paraventral stripes, and a red or yellowish-tan head and bright red tail. Bungarus sindanus differs from B. slowinskii in having 17 dorsal scale rows, undivided subcaudals, and black and white bands on the body. Bungarus ceylonicus and B. fasciatus differ from the new species in having undivided subcaudals and lacking a pattern of light lines and spots on the snout and sides of the head. Bungarus fasciatus, which has a similar V-shaped marking on the posterior of the head, differs further from B. slowinskii in having broad yellow rings between the dark rings. Bungarus lividus, B. niger, and certain individuals of B. candidus differ from B. slowinskii in having undivided subcaudals and a uniformly black or dark brown head and dorsum. Bungarus lividus differs further from B. slowinskii in having only slightly enlarged vertebral scales on the anterior body. Bungarus andamanensis, B. caeruleus, B. candidus, B. magnimaculatus, and B. multicinctus differ from B. slowinskii in having undivided subcaudals, a pattern of dark bands with light interspaces and light venter, and a uniformly black dorsal head color in adults, or combinations with solid white areas posteriorly on the head in juveniles of certain species. Bungarus candidus and B. magnimaculatus also differ from B. slowinskii in having very wide white areas between dark bands, which are as broad as or broader than the dark bands. Bungarus slowinskii differs from B. bungaroides in several color pattern characters. The white rings on its body are fewer in number than in B. bungaroides (27–33 vs. 46–60 [mean 51.3 +/- 5.0 SD, n = 7]). They are also slightly wider middorsally, involving up to two middorsal scales (vs. the lateral margins of up to one), much wider laterally and paraventrally than middorsally (involving 2–4 [mode = 3] vs. up to 1 paraventral), and are formed by white scales with distinct black bases and margins (vs. black scales with white margins or lateral bases, or completely white scales in B. bungaroides). In B. slowinskii, only the first (holotype) or first and second (paratype) white rings on the body have an angular, chevron-like form. In B. bungaroides, the middorsal sharply angular form of the white rings only gradually decreases posteriorly; even the last white body rings may still be slightly angular in some specimens. In addition, B. slowinskii has black body rings that are longer than those of B. bungaroides (covering up to 12 vs. up to 7 dorsal scales on the neck, and 5–8.25 vs. 3–4.5 elsewhere on the body). Both species can also be diagnosed by molecular characters (see above for list of potentially fixed nucleotide differences in segments of two mitochondrial genes). Bungarus slowinskii may be distinguished from juvenile King Cobras by the presence of distinctly enlarged middorsal scales (vs. vertebral scales similar in size to dorsal scales in adjacent rows), the absence (vs. presence) of enlarged occipital shields, the inversely V-shaped light dorsal head mark on black ground (vs. one black band each between the nares, between the eyes, and across the parietal-occipital region), and the characteristic defensive posture of King Cobras (lacking in B. slowinskii) [from KUCH et al. 2005]. 
EtymologyNamed after Joseph Bruno Slowinski (1963-2001), American herpetologist, who died from snakebite at age 38. For an obituary see Donnelly & Crother 2003. For more biographical details see James (2008) and Wedlich 2017. 
  • Beolens, Bo; Michael Watkins, and Michael Grayson 2011. The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA - get paper here
  • James, J. 2008. The Snake Charmer. Hyperion eBooks, 260 pp.
  • Kharin, Vladimir E.;Nikolai L. Orlov, Natalia B. Ananjeva 2011. New Records and Redescription of Rare and Little-Known Elapid Snake Bungarus slowinskii (Serpentes: Elapidae: Bungarinae). Russ. J. Herpetol. 18 (4): 284–294 - get paper here
  • Kuch, U.; Kizirian, D.; Nguyen, Q.T.; Lawson, R.; Donnelly, M.A. & Mebs, D. 2005. A new species of krait (Squamata: Elapidae) from the Red River System of Nothern Vietnam. Copeia 2005 (4): 818-833 - get paper here
  • Kwet, A. 2007. Bungarus slowinskii - Tod eines Herpetologen Terraria (5) 2 (3): 32.
  • Nguyen, S.V., Ho, C.T. and Nguyen, T.Q. 2009. Herpetofauna of Vietnam. Chimaira, Frankfurt, 768 pp.
  • Smits, T. & Hauser, S. 2019. First Record of the Krait Bungarus slowinskii Kuch, Kizirian, Nguyen, Lawson, Donelly and Mebs, 2005 (Squamata: Elapidae) from Thailand. Tropical Natural History 19 (2): 43–50 - get paper here
  • Susanne Wedlich 2017. Tod eines Schlangenforschers - "Das ist ein verfluchter Krait!". Spiegel Online, 03.05.2017 - get paper here
  • Thompson, C. & Thompson, T. 2008. First contact in the Greater Mekong - new species discoveries. WWF, 40 pp. - get paper here
  • Vogel, G. 2006. Venomous snakes of Asia - Giftschlangen Asiens. Edition Chimaira, Terralog 14, 148 p. - get paper here
  • Wallach, Van; Kenneth L. Williams , Jeff Boundy 2014. Snakes of the World: A Catalogue of Living and Extinct Species. [type catalogue] Taylor and Francis, CRC Press, 1237 pp.
  • Werning, H. 2006. Neu beschriebene Reptilien und Amphibien aus Vietnam. Reptilia (Münster) 11 (57): 4-5 - get paper here
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