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Micrurus tricolor HOGE, 1956

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Higher TaxaElapidae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Pantanal Coral Snake
Portuguese: Cobra-Coral, Coral, Coral-Verdadeira, Cobra-Coral-de-Três-Cores 
SynonymMicrurus tricolor HOGE 1956: 67
Micrurus frontalis tricolor — ROZE 1983
Micrurus frontalis tricolor — WELCH 1994: 83
Micrurus pyrrhocryptus tricolor — ROZE 1994: 179
Micrurus tricolor — DA SILVA & SITES 1999: 172
Micrurus tricolor — DI BERNARDO et al. 2007
Micrurus tricolor — COSTA & BERNILS 2018
Micrurus tricolor — NOGUEIRA et al. 2019 
DistributionBrazil (Mato Grosso), adjacent Paraguay

Type locality: Garandazal, Mato Grosso, Brazil.  
TypesHolotype: IB 16290 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: (1) Dorsal pattern of white, red, and black triads; (2) hemipenis and tail relatively short; (3) two supralabials entering orbit; (4) mental usually separated from chinshields by medial contact of first pair of infralabials; (5) anal scale usually divided; (6) first triad complete; (7) 5-12 red vertebrals separating first triad from parietals; (8) all dorsal head scales including parietals black, edged in white; (9) red rings with heavier black apices than white rings; (10) white rings longest dorsally, constricted or broken ventrally by black rings; (11) chin red with no to moderate black mottling and edging of scales; mental mostly or entirely red; (12) 6-14 triads on body, 1-1.67 on tail [HARVEY et al. 2003].

Diagnosis: Micrurus pyrrhocryptus is a triadal coralsnake with a black snout reaching the postoculars and 3-4 anterior supralabials. All scales are white bordered. The head is black (Fig. 27). The frontal, supraoculars and parietals may be white bordered including along the medial suture of the parietals. The remainder of the head is red with all scales black-tipped. Inferiorly, the chin is red with irregular black markings on the infralabials, genials, and first ventrals. This taxon is characterized by a low number of triads. The middle black ring is at least twice (10-14 dorsal scales) the length of the external ones (5-7 dorsal scales). The white rings (always blacktipped) are of the same length or slightly shorter than the external black rings (4-6 dorsal scales) (Table 2). Owing to the low number of triads the red rings are almost the same length as the entire triads. The red rings are heavily darkened (black-tipped) and an intense melanism of the head and body is characteristic of this taxon. The first triad is separated from the parietals by 5 to 7 dorsal scales. Triads range from 6 to 11 (Table 1, from Silva & Sites 1999: 174).

Micrurus p. pyrrhocryptus can usually be distinguished from M. p. tricolor by having more white edging on the black scales of the snout, a relatively short red occipital ring, and relatively longer primary black rings (often at least twice as long versus less than twice as long as accessory rings). Also, in M. p. pyrrhocryptus the scales in the white rings (at least the posterior ones) are usually distinctly tipped with black, whereas in M. p. tricolor these scales are immaculate or have small black tips. However, there is sufficient variability in populations of M. pyrrhocryptus to make allocation of individual specimens frequently difficult. [Campbell & Lamar 2004: 225]

Di Bernardo el (2007) present meristic and color pattern data that should distinguish M. pyrrhocryptus and M. tricolor. 
CommentSynonymy: M. tricolor has been synonymized with M. pyrrhocryptus by previous authors (e.g. Wallach et al. 2014) but treated as valid more recently.

Subspecies: Micrurus tricolor has been considered as a subspecies or synonym of pyrrhocryptus, but has been elevated to species status by Silva & Sites 1999, although only some authors have followed that decision.

Distribution: tricolor is not in Bolivia but pyrrhocryptus from Boliva has been misidentified as tricolor (Harvey et al. 2003). See map in Nogueira et al. 2019.


Similar species: Mimicked by the nonvenomous species Lystrophis pulcher. 
EtymologyNamed after the color pattern. 
  • Costa, Henrique Caldeira; Renato Silveira Bérnils 2018. Répteis do Brasil e suas Unidades Federativas: Lista de espécies. Herpetologia Brasileira 7 (1): 11-57
  • Da SILVA, N. J. JR. & J. W. JR. SITES 1999. Revision of the Micrurus frontalis complex (Serpentes: Elapidae). Herpetological Monographs 13: 142-194 - get paper here
  • DI-BERNARDO, MARCOS; MARCIO BORGES-MARTINS & NELSON JORGE DA SILVA, JR. 2007. A new species of coralsnake (Micrurus: Elapidae) from southern Brazil. Zootaxa 1447: 1–26 - get paper here
  • Gonzalez R. C. et al. 2020. Lista dos Nomes Populares dos Répteis no Brasil – Primeira Versão. Herpetologia Brasileira 9 (2): 121 – 214 - get paper here
  • Hoge,A.R. 1956. Uma nova especie de Micrurus (Serp. Elap.) do Brasil. Mem. Inst. Butantan 27: 67-72 - get paper here
  • Nogueira, Cristiano C.; Antonio J.S. Argôlo, Vanesa Arzamendia, Josué A. Azevedo, Fausto E. Barbo, Renato S. Bérnils, Bruna E. Bolochio, Marcio Borges-Martins, Marcela Brasil-Godinho, Henrique Braz, Marcus A. Buononato, Diego F. Cisneros-Heredia, 2019. Atlas of Brazilian snakes: verified point-locality maps to mitigate the Wallacean shortfall in a megadiverse snake fauna. South American J. Herp. 14 (Special Issue 1):1-274 - get paper here
  • Roze, J. A. 1983. New World coral snakes (Elapidae): a taxonomic and biological summary. Mem. Inst. Butantan 46: 305-338 [1982] - get paper here
  • Roze, J.A. 1994. Notes on the taxonomy of venomous coral snakes (Elapidae) of South America. Bull. Maryland Herp. Soc. 30: 177-185. - get paper here
  • Welch, K. R. G. 1994. Snakes of the World. A Checklist. I. Venomous snakes. KCM Books, Somerset, England.
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