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Sinomicrurus japonicus (GÜNTHER, 1868)

IUCN Red List - Sinomicrurus japonicus - Near Threatened, NT

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Higher TaxaElapidae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Japanese Coral Snake 
SynonymHemibungarus japonicus japonicus (GÜNTHER 1868)
Callophis japonicus GÜNTHER 1868: 428
Callophis japonicus — BOULENGER 1892: 302
Hemibungarus japonicus — BOULENGER 1896: 395
Hemibungarus japonicus — STEJNEGER 1907: 387
Calliophis japonicus — THOMPSON 1913: 511 (part.)
Calliophis japonicus japonicus — LOVERIDGE 1946: 153
Hemibungarus japonicus japonicus — TORIBA in GOLAY et al. 1993: 141
Micrurus japonicus japonicus — WELCH 1994: 85
Hemibungarus japonicus japonicus — OTA, ITO & LIN 1999
Sinomicrurus japonicus — SLOWINSKI, BOUNDY & LAWSON 2001
Sinomicrurus japonicus japonicus — GORIS & MAEDA 2004: 244
Sinomicrurus japonicus — WALLACH et al. 2014: 676
Sinomicrurus japonicus — SMART et al. 2021 
DistributionJapan (Ryukyu Islands: endemic to Amami and Okinawa groups of the central Ryukyus)

japonicus: Amamioshima, Kakeromajima, Yorojima, Ukejima of the Amami Group (Toyama and Ota 1991, cited in Ota et al. 1999).

takarai: Iejima, Zamamijima, Amurojima, Gerumajima, Akajima, Tonakijima, Kumejima of the Okinawa Group.  
TypesHolotype: BMNH 1946.1.17.97 
DiagnosisComparisons: S. japonicus tends to have fewer dentary teeth (13–14) than S. boettgeri (14–18 in), a vertebral stripe at two head lengths behind neck occupying 1/2 or less of the paravertebral scale row vs. >1/2 in S. boettgeri, and body bands usually not bordered by white as opposed to usually bordered by white in S. boettgeri). In addition, sulcus spermaticus of the hemipenes is centripetal in S. japonicus vs. centripetal-revolute in S. boettgeri, less than 15 spines around main body vs. >15, respectively, the basal pocket is extremely shallow to absent vs. shallow, respectively, and the base is more than 55% of organ length vs. <55%, respectively (Smart et al. 2021: 2255). 

Synonymy: mainly after OTA et al. 1999. Previous authors regarded C. boettgeri as a junior synonym of C. japonicus (e.g. Boulenger 1896; Thompson 1913; Loveridge 1946; Nakamura and Ueno 1963). Other authors recognized the validity of boettgeri as a subspecies of japonicus (e.g. Koba 1962, 1977; Takara 1962).

Subspecies: Hemibungarus sauteri has been treated as subspecies of japonicus. Sinomicrurus japonicus takarai (OTA et al. 1999) has been synonymized with S. j. boettgeri by Kaito et al. 2017. OTA et al. 1999 and Kaito et al. 2017 provide tables with diagnostic characters for the subspecies. Smart et al. 2021 consider boettgeri as a valid species but without much discussion.

Conservation: H. j. japonicus and H. j. boettgeri are classified as “near threatened” in Japan (Ota 2000). 
EtymologyNamed after the type locality. 
  • Barbour, Thomas 1909. Notes on Amphibia and Reptilia from Eastern Asia. Proc. New England zool. Club 4: 53-78, 2 plates - get paper here
  • Boulenger, G. A. 1892. Description of new reptiles and batrachians from the Loo Choo Islands. Ann. Mag. nat. Hist. (6) 10: 302-304 - get paper here
  • Boulenger, G.A. 1896. Catalogue of the snakes in the British Museum, Vol. 3. London (Taylor & Francis), xiv + 727 pp. - get paper here
  • Fritze,A. 1894. Die Fauna der Liu-Kiu-Insel Okinawa. Zool. Jahrb. Syst. 7: 852-926 - get paper here
  • Fuke, Y 2018. Sinomicrurus japonicus boettgeri (Hai Coral Snake) Defensive behavior. Herpetological Review 49 (2): 354-355 - get paper here
  • Golay,P, H.M. SMITH, D.G. BROADLEY, J. R. DIXON, C., MCCARTHY, J. C. RAGE, B. SCHÀTTI & M.TORIBA 1993. Endoglyphs and other major venomous snakes of the world. A checklist. [type catalogue] Aire-Genève, Azemiops S. A. Herpetological Data Center: i-xv + 1-478.
  • Goris, R.C. & Maeda, N. 2004. Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Japan. Krieger, Malabar, 285 pp.
  • Günther, A. 1868. Sixth account of new species of snakes in the collection of the British Museum. Ann. Mag. nat. Hist. (4) 1: 413-429 - get paper here
  • Kaito, T., Ota, H. and Toda, M. 2017. The evolutionary history and taxonomic reevaluation of the Japanese coral snake, Sinomicrurus japonicus (Serpentes, Elapidae), endemic to the Ryukyu Archipelago, Japan, by use of molecular and morphological analyses. J Zool Syst Evol Res.; doi:10.1111/jzs.12162 - get paper here
  • Koba, Kazuo;Kikukawa, Daito;Fukuda, Tsuneo;Tanaka, Kazuhiro 1977. A taxonomic study of Calliophis japonicus (Serpentes: Elapidae) of the Nansei Islands, Japan. Bulletin of Ginkyo College of Medical Technology 2: 7-30
  • Koba,K. 1962. Studies on the snakes of the genus Trimeresurus of the Amami and Tokara islands, Japan [in Japanese]. Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Tokyo.
  • Loveridge,A. 1946. Reptiles of the Pacific World. MacMillan Publ. Co., New York.
  • Mori,M. 1982. Japans Schlangen, Vols. 1-3 (80, 102, 123 pp.). Tokyo (Igaku-Shoin Ltd.) [bilingual edition in German and Japanese]
  • Nakamura K & Uéno SI 1963. Japanese Reptiles and Amphibians in Colour [in Japanese]. Hoikusha, Osaka
  • Ota, H. 2000. Current status of the threatened amphibians and reptiles of Japan. Popul. Ecol. 42: 5-9 - get paper here
  • Ota, Hidetoshi, Akiko Ito and Jun-Tsong Lin. 1999. Systematic review of the Elapid snakes allied to Hemibungarus japonicus (Günther, 1868) in the East Asian Islands, with description of a new subspecies from the central Ryukyus. Journal of Herpetology 33 (4): 675-687 - get paper here
  • Sclater, J.A. 1950. Bionomic notes on some reptiles form Okinawa Shima, Ryukyu Islands, Japan. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (12) 3: 113-116 - get paper here
  • Slowinski, Joseph B.; Boundy, Jeff & Lawson,R. 2001. The phylogenetic relationships of Asian coral snakes (Elapidae: Calliophis and Maticora) based on morphological and molecular characters. Herpetologica 57 (2): 233-245 - get paper here
  • Stejneger, LEONHARD H. 1907. Herpetology of Japan and adjacent territory. Bull. US Natl. Mus. 58: xx, 1-577 - get paper here
  • Takara,T. 1962. Studies on the terrestrial snakes in the Ryukyu Archipelago [In Japanese with English summary]. Sci. Bull. Agr. Home Econ. Div., Univ. Ryukyus (9): 1-202
  • Thompson, J.C. 1913. Contributions to the synonymy of Serpentes in the family Elapidae. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philad. 65: 508-514 - 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.
  • Welch, K. R. G. 1994. Snakes of the World. A Checklist. I. Venomous snakes. KCM Books, Somerset, England.
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