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Micrurus nigrocinctus (GIRARD, 1854)

IUCN Red List - Micrurus nigrocinctus - Least Concern, LC

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Higher TaxaElapidae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
SubspeciesMicrurus nigrocinctus babaspul ROZE 1967
Micrurus nigrocinctus coibensis SCHMIDT 1936
Micrurus nigrocinctus divaricatus (HALLOWELL 1855)
Micrurus nigrocinctus nigrocinctus (GIRARD 1854)
Micrurus nigrocinctus zunilensis SCHMIDT 1932 
Common NamesE: Central American Coralsnake, Central American Coral Snake
E: Common Central American coral snake [nigrocinctus]
E: Babaspul [babaspul]
E: Coiba coral snake [coibensis]
E: Honduras coral snake [divaricatus]
E: Mount Ovando coral snake [ovandoensis]
E: Zunil coral snake [zunilensis]
G: Schwarzgebänderte Korallenotter, Mittelamerikanische Korallenotter
S: Coralillo Centroamericano 
SynonymElaps nigrocinctus GIRARD 1854
Elaps fulvius var. nigrocinctus — GARMAN 1884: 106
Micrurus pachecoi — TAYLOR 1951
Micrurus nigrocinctus — LINER 1994
Micrurus nigrocinctus — SAVAGE 2002
Micrurus nigrocinctus — MATA-SILVA et al. 2015
Micrurus nigrocinctus — WALLACH et al. 2014: 450

Micrurus nigrocinctus babaspul ROZE 1967
Micrurus nigrocinctus babaspul — WELCH 1994: 87
Micrurus nigrocinctus babaspul — ROZE 1996: 203

Micrurus nigrocinctus coibensis K.P.SCHMIDT 1936
Micrurus nigrocinctus coibensis K.P.SCHMIDT 1936
Micrurus nigrocinctus coibensis — WELCH 1994: 87
Micrurus nigrocinctus coibensis — ROZE 1996: 204

Micrurus nigrocinctus divaricatus (HALLOWELL 1855)
Elaps divaricatus HALLOWELL 1855: 36
Micrurus nigrocinctus divaricatus — SCHMIDT 1933
Micrurus nigrocinctus divaricatus — WELCH 1994: 87
Micrurus nigrocinctus divaricatus — ROZE 1996: 204
Micrurus nigrocinctus divaricatus — JOWERS et al. 2023

Micrurus nigrocinctus nigrocinctus (GIRARD 1854)
Elaps nigrocinctus GIRARD 1854 (1855: 226)
Elaps fulvius BOULENGER 1896
Micrurus nigrocinctus nigrocinctus — WELCH 1994: 87
Micrurus nigrocinctus nigrocinctus — ROZE 1996: 202

Micrurus nigrocinctus zunilensis K.P.SCHMIDT 1932
Micrurus nigrocinctus zunilensis K.P.SCHMIDT 1932
Micrurus nigrocinctus wagneri MERTENS 1941
Micrurus nigrocinctus zunilensis — SMITH 1942: 454
Micrurus nigrocinctus ovandoensis SCHMIDT & SMITH 1943
Micrurus nigrocinctus zunilensis — LIVEZEY & PECKHAM 1953
Micrurus nigrocinctus zunilensis — MERTENS 1956
Micrurus browni importunus ROZE 1967
Micrurus browni importunus — GOLAY et al. 1993: 159
Micrurus nigrocinctus zunilensis — WELCH 1994: 87
Micrurus browni importunus — ROZE 1996: 147
Micrurus nigrocinctus zunilensis — ROZE 1996: 205
Micrurus nigrocinctus zunilensis — REYES-VELASCO et al. 2020
Micrurus nigrocinctus zunilensis — JOWERS et al. 2023 
DistributionMexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas), Belize, Guatemala,
Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama,
Colombia, W Caribbean; elevation (Honduras): 0-1600 m

nigrocinctus: Pacific coasts of Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, N Colombia

babaspul: Nicaragua (Corn Islands)

coibensis: Panama (Coiba Island); Type locality: Coiba Island, Panama.

divaricatus: Belize, N/C Honduras; Type locality: Honduras;

importunus: Guatemala (Sacatepequez); Type locality: Dueñas, about 25 km west-southwest of Guatemala City in the Antigua Basin, Sacatepequez, Guatemala

ovandoensis: Mexico (Chiapas). Type locality: Salto de Agua, Mount Ovando, about fifteen miles northeast of Escuintla, Chiapas. Altitude 1,200 feet elevation.

zunilensis: Pacific coasts of Mexico (Chiapas), Guatemala, El Salvador, S Honduras; Type locality: Finca El Cipres, lower slopes of Volcan Zunil, Suchitepequez, Guatemala.

Type locality: "Taboga Island, Bay of Panama, Panama" (Girard, C. 1854)  
TypesSyntypes: USNM 7347 (2), 329492
Holotype: CAS 66001 [zunilensis]
Holotype: ANSP 6843 [divaricatus]
Holotype: AMNH 96996 [babaspul]
Holotype: BMNH 1926.1-20.76 [coibensis]
Holotype: BMNH [importunus]
Holotype: USNM 111331; Paratype: (n=1) USNM 111332, from the vicinity of La Esperanza, 400 feet, ten miles northeast of Escuintla, Chiapas, collected May 25, 1940, young female [ovandoensis]
Holotype: SMF 34190, a male [wagneri] 
DiagnosisDefinition: A single-banded coral snake with black snout followed by a yellow parietal band and a black nuchal band that might or might not cover the tips of the parietals. The males have supraanal tubercles(Roze 1996: 201-206, including the following subspecies; Roze also provides a key to subspecies).

Description (nigrocinctus): Males have 191 to 209 (203.2) ventrals, usually 193 to 203, and females have 207 to 225 (214.8), usually 210 to 223; subeaudals 42 to 51 (46.8) in males and 32 to 43 (38.3) in females; 1+1 temporals. Examined: 162 males and 126 females, ineluding the holotypes.
The snout is blaek, ineluding the supraoculars and the frontal, followed by a short or broad yellow or white parietal band. It might cover the tip of the frontal and the supraoculars, most of the parietals, the temporals, and about 4 supralabials. Below, the head is yellow or white with the mental and the first 3 infralabials black. The black nuchal band covers the tips of the parietals and the seventh is usually 4 to 6 ventrals long. Sometimes, it can be interrupted ventraIly. The black body bands are 3 to 5 dorsals and 2 to 4 ventrals long. The red bands are 3 to 5 times longer than the black bands, and there is a considerable variation in the amount, size, and regularity of black tips. They vary from very few and small to fairly large, though they are somewhat irregular in size and distribution; exceptional specimens can be practically without black tips. The most common pattern is small black tips of irregular size present on many, but not aIl, red scales. VentraIly, the red bands are usually immaculate or sometimes have a few black spots. The yellow or white bands are usually Y2 to 1 dorsal and 1 ventral
long, sometimes inconspicuous or barely perceptible. The tail has only black and yellow bands; the black bands are 2 to 3 times longer than the yellow ones.
The males have 13 to 21 (17.7), usually 15 to 20, and the females have 13 to 23 (18.6), usually 15 to 21, black body bands. On the tail, the males have 4 to 8 (6.1) and the females have 3 to 6 (5.9) black tail bands, but the most frequent number of tail bands in both sexes is between 5 and 7 (Roze 1996: 205).

Description (babaspul): Males have around 193 and females have 205 to 209 (207.0) ventrals; subcaudals around 47 in males and 35 to 36 (35.5) in females. Examined: the only three known specimens: 1 male and 2 fernales, including the holotype.
The black snout covers the anterior tips of the parietals but the frontal tip is white. The mental and the upper part of the first 3 infralabials are black and there are a few smalI, black spots on the genials, or the black nuchal band projects forward ventrally onto the second pair of genials. The nuchal black band covers the tips of the parietals and 4 dorsals. The black bands are 2 to 3 dorsals and ventrals long. The red bands have conspicuous, regular black tips on all scales. Ventrally, the red bands have a few scattered black spots. The white bands are Y2 to 1 dorsal long. On the tail, the black bands are about 3 times longer than the white bands; the latter have a few large dorsal spots.
The males have around 18 and the fernales have 21 to 23 (22.0) black body bands. The black tail bands vary around 7 (Roze 1996: 203).

Description (coibensis): Males have 213 to 217 (215.1) and fernales have 228 to 230 (228.9) ventrals; subcaudals 43 to 48 (46.0) in males and 31 to 34 (32.5) in fernales. Exarnined: 3 males and 4 fernales, including the holotype.
The black snout coloration covers all the supraoculars but usually does not cover the anterior part of the p~rietals nor the posterior part of the frontal. The mental and the first 3 or 4 infralabials are black. The black nuchal band covers the tips of the parietals and 7 dorsals. The black body bands are 3 to 4 dorsals and 2 to 3 ventrals long. The red bands have a few smalI, irregular black tips, no more than 12 per band. Ventrally, the red bands have a few small black spots. The white or yellow bands are barely visible, about 1 dorsal long. On the tail, the black bands are about 2 or more tirnes longer than the white bands.
The males have 17 to 22 (18.8) and the fernales have 19 to 23 (20.6) black body bands. The males have 6 and the fernales have 4 to 5 black tail bands (Roze 1996: 204).

Description (divaricatus): Males have 190 to 206 (198.3) and fernales have 206 to 221 (213.1) ventrals; subcaudals 45 to 52 (49.4) in males and 32 to 39 (37.2) in fernales; usually 1+2 temporals. Exarnined: 72 males and 49 fernales, including the holotype.
The black snout coloration is reduced and in many specimens it covers only part of the frontal and the supraoculars and has a somewhat irregular posterior border. The white parietal band usually includes the entire parietals and the seventh supralabial. Below the head is white, except part of the mental and the first infralabials that are black. The black nuchal band usually does not reach nor cover the tips of the parietals, or it rnight barely cover them.1t is 3 to 5 dorsals and 2 to 4 ventrals long, but it can also be interrupted ventrally. The black bands are usually 3 to 4 dorsals and 2 to 4 ventrals long. The black tips on the red bands are irregular and vary considerably, from nearly nonexistent to larger and smaller black spots, reaching the extreme of forming an intermediate black band on the red bands. Ventrally, the red bands are immaculate or with a few small or large black spots. The yellow bands also vary from about 2 dorsals long to nearly or entirely absent. Only black and white bands are on the tall. The black bands are shorter than the white bands in the northem Honduras populations, but longer than the white bands in the inland Honduras populations.
Males have 11 to 24 (16.1) and females have 12 to 23 (18.2) black body bands. One specimen has 29 black body bands, but this includes the intermediate additional black bands formed on the red bands. The black tailbands vary from 3 to 8 in males and 3 to 7 in females (Roze 1996: 204).

Diagnosis (ovandoensis): A coral snake with the general coloration and habitus of Micrurus nigrocinctus; males with supra-anal tubercles; black rings single, complete, covering three or four scale rows mid-dorsally, numbering twelve on body and three or four on tail, in the specimens known ; red rings very broad, the dorsal scales within them not black- tipped ; yellow rings complete, one and a half to two scale rows wide; prefrontals in contact with or narrowly separated from supra-labials. Ventrals 204 (male), 211 (female). (SCHMIDT & SMITH 1943)

Description of type (ovandoensis): Head scales normal; upper and lower labials 7-7; preoculars 1-1; postoculars 2-2; temporals 1-1-2; pref rental narrowly in contact with second and third supralabials on one side (separating nasal and preocular), narrowly separated from them on the other; ventrals 204; anal divided; caudals 48, all divided; dorsal scale rows 15, smooth, not pitted; supra-anal tubercles present. Snout black, the color reaching posterior margin of eye and posterior part of frontal; mental and three anterior lower labials on each side black; a broad, yellow parietal ring, involving all except the posterior tip of the frontal; dorsal and upper lateral surfaces of the head in the light areas stippled, remainder immaculate; nuchal black ring involving tips of parietals and six scale lengths on the body medially as the first of a series of twelve equidistant complete black rings; all rings except the first and last extending over three or four scale lengths on the mid-dorsal line, the last involving five; four black rings on tail, twice as wide as yellow interspaces; black rings on body bordered by complete yellow rings one and a half to two scale lengths wide; red spaces very broad, the dorsal scales within them not black- tipped. Total length 629; tail 93. (SCHMIDT & SMITH 1943)

Variation (ovandoensis): The paratype: (USNM 111332), is a young female with 211 ventrals and 32 subcaudals, black rings on body and tail 12+3; the prefrontals touch the third labial on both sides; total length 207, tail 19. On one side the first and second supralabials are abnormally fused. Other characters are as in the type. (SCHMIDT & SMITH 1943)

Description (zunilensis): Males have 194 to 207 (197.1) and females have 210 to 221 (217.4) ventrals; subcaudals 45 to 53 (47.7) in males and 35 to 40 (38.1) in females. Examined: 58 males and 47 females, including all holotypes. The black snout coloration extends to and usually includes the entire supraoculars and all or most of the frontal. The yellow parietal band is short, covering less than half to two thirds of the parietals, part of the temporals, and several supralabials. Below, the head is all yellow or white with the mental and usually the first 3 infralabials black. The black nuchal band covers about one third of the parietals, sometimes more or less, and 3 to 5 dorsals. Ventrally, it frequently extends . forward onto the genials. The black bands are usually 3 to 5 and 2 to 4 ventrals long. The red bands are 3 to 6 times longer than the black bands, usually without black tips, but occasional specimens can have small irregular black tips but not on all scales. The red bands as well as the light parietal band frequently have brownish overtones that dull the red or white bands dorsally. The yellow or white bands are usually absent or quite inconspicuous. When present, they are 1 oi: less dorsallong. Only black and white bands are present on the tail; the former are about 2 times or more longer
than the latter.
The males have 12 to 19 (17.1), usually 15 to 18, and the females have 12 to 22 (17.7), usually 15 to 19, black body bands. On the tail, the males have 5 to 7 (6.3) and the females have 4 to 6 (4.9) black bands (Roze 1996: 205). 
CommentSubspecies: The validity of several subspecies is questionable (see VENCES et al. 1998 and Villa 1984). Micrurus nigrocinctus mosquitensis SCHMIDT 1933 has been elevated to full species status.

Synonymy: after Roze 1996 and others. REYES-VELASCO et al. 2020 synonymized Micrurus browni importunus with Micrurus nigrocinctus zunilensis. Various populations and subspecies of M. nigrocinctus are paraphyletic, e.g. with respect to M. mosquitensis, but Jowers et al. 2023 have not recommended any major taxonomic changes.

Mimicry: Micrurus nigrocinctus zunilensis is mimicked by Pliocercus elapoides (see figures in SMITH & CHISZAR 2001).


Distribution: not in Yucatan state (Mexico), fide Gonzalez-Sanchez et al. 2017. Records from Belize remain to be confirmed; this snake probably does not occur in Belize (Stafford 1999).

Abundance in Honduras: common

Similar species: M. dumerilii. 
EtymologyLatin from niger meaning black and cinctus meaning a girdle or band; thus black-banded coral snake, alluding to the black single bands. Melanocephalus is derived from the Greek words melano meaning black and cephalus meaning head, thus the black-headed species. The name pachecoi is dedicated to Marco Tulio Pacheco, a Costa Rican scientist.
The name babaspul is derived from its cornrnon name in Creole English spoken on the islands where the coral snake is found. The name, babaspul, refers to barber's pole, in allusion to its black, white, and red bands that are used to advertise barber shops throughout the Western world.
M. n. coibensis was named after the type locality, Coiba Island.
M. n. divaricatus from Latin divarica meaning to spread out, probably referring to the extended red bands on the body.
M. n. ovandoensis was named after the type localities [Mount Ovando, Chiapas, Mexico].
Zunilensis, Latin for inhabitant of Volcán Zunil; wagneri is dedicated to H. O. Wagner, collector of the holotype, and ovandoensis is Latin for dweller of Mt. Ovando. 
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  • Wilson, L.D. & McCranie, J.R. 2003. The herpetofauna of the cloud forests of Honduras. Amphibian & Reptile Conservation 3 (1): 34-48 - get paper here
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