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Micrurus diastema (DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL, 1854)

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Higher TaxaElapidae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
SubspeciesMicrurus diastema diastema (DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL 1854)
Micrurus diastema aglaeope (COPE 1860)
Micrurus diastema alienus (WERNER 1903)
Micrurus diastema affinis (JAN 1858)
Micrurus diastema apiatus (JAN 1858)
Micrurus diastema macdougalli ROZE 1967
Micrurus diastema sapperi (WERNER 1903) 
Common NamesE: Variable Coral Snake, Diastema Coral Snake
S: Coral Diastema 
SynonymElaps diastema DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL 1854: 1222
Elaps epistema DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL 1854: 1222
Elaps corallinus var. crebripunctatus PETERS 1869: 877
Elaps fulvius var. epistema — GARMAN 1884: 106
Elaps fulvius var. diastema — GARMAN 1884: 106
Elaps fulvius var. cerebripunctatus [sic] — GARMAN 1884: 106
Micrurus diastema — SCHMIDT 1933: 36
Micrurus diastema — PETERS & OREJAS-MIRANDA 1970: 204
Micrurus diastema — LINER 1994
Micrurus diastema — MATA-SILVA et al. 2015
Micrurus diastema — WALLACH et al. 2014: 445

Micrurus diastema affinis (JAN 1858)
Elaps affinis JAN 1858: 525
Elaps fulvius var. affinis — GARMAN 1884: 106
Micrurus affinis affinis — SCHMIDT 1933
Micrurus diastema affinis — ROZE 1967
Micrurus diastema affinis — LINER 2007

Micrurus diastema aglaeope (COPE 1860)
Elaps aglaeope COPE 1860: 344
Micrurus diastema aglaeope — ROZE 1967: 15
Micrurus diastema aglaeope — PETERS & OREJAS-MIRANDA 1970: 205
Micrurus diastema aglaeope — CAMPBELL & LAMAR 1989
Micrurus diastema aglaeope — WELCH 1994: 79
Micrurus affinis aglaeope — SCHMIDT 1936

Micrurus diastema alienus (WERNER 1903)
Elaps alienus WERNER 1903: 249
Micrurus afinis mayensis SCHMIDT 1933: 37 (fide ROZE 1967)
Micrurus affinis alienus — STUART 1935: 54
Micrurus affinis alienus — SCHMIDT 1936
Micrurus affinis alienus — SCHMIDT 1941
Micrurus affinis alienus — LAURENT 1949: 18
Micrurus affinis alienus — NEILL & ALLEN 1959: 56
Micrurus diastema alienus — CAMPBELL & LAMAR 1989
Micrurus diastema alienus — WELCH 1994: 79
Micrurus diastema alienus — LINER 2007

Micrurus diastema apiatus (JAN 1858)
Elaps apiatus JAN 1858: 522
Elaps fulvius var. apiatus — GARMAN 1884: 106
Micrurus affinis apiatus — SCHMIDT 1933: 37
Micrurus diastema apiatus — ROZE 1967: 15
Micrurus diastema apiatus — PETERS & OREJAS-MIRANDA 1970: 205
Micrurus diastema apiatus — CAMPBELL & LAMAR 1989
Micrurus diastema apiatus — WELCH 1994: 79
Micrurus diastema apiatus — LINER 2007
Micrurus diastema apiatus — SILVA et al. 2016

Micrurus diastema diastema (DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL 1854)
Elaps diastema DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL 1854
Elaps corallinus var. gastrostictus JAN 1863 (fide TIEDEMANN & GRILLITSCH 1999)
Elaps corallinus var. crebripunctatus PETERS 1870
Micrurus diastema diastema — SCHMIDT 1933: 38
Micrurus diastema diastema — CAMPBELL & LAMAR 1989
Micrurus diastema diastema — WELCH 1994: 79
Micrurus diastema diastema — LINER 2007

Micrurus diastema macdougalli ROZE 1967
Micrurus diastema macdougalli — LINER 2007

Micrurus diastema sapperi (WERNER 1903)
Elaps fulvius var. sapperi WERNER 1903: 350
Elaps guatemalensis AHL 1927: 251
Micrurus affinis stantoni SCHMIDT 1933: 36
Micrurus diastema sapperi — ROZE 1967: 17
Micrurus diastema sapperi — PETERS & OREJAS-MIRANDA 1970: 205
Micrurus diastema — WELCH 1994: 81
Micrurus diastema sapperi — LINER 2007
Micrurus diastema sapperi — SILVA et al. 2016 
DistributionS Mexico (Veracruz, Oaxaca, Yucatan, Chiapas, Puebla),
Belize, Guatemala, Honduras (elevation 100-1680 m)

diastema: C Veracruz to W Tabasco; Type locality: Mexico (restricted to Colima by SCHMIDT 1933).

aglaeope: NW Honduras; Type locality: Honduras

alienus: N Yucatán peninsula including Yucatán and NE Quintana Roo; Type locality: Unknown, restricted to Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico by ROZE 1967.

affinis: Atlantic versant of N Oaxaca; Type locality: Mexico.

apiatus: Atlantic versant of the uplands of N Guatemala and E Chiapas; Type locality: Vera Paz, Guatemala.

macdougalli: Atlantic slopes of the highlands of extreme SE Oaxaca

sapperi: S Yucatán peninsula, including Campeche and N Chiapas,Type locality: “Guatemala”  
Reproductionoviparous. 
TypesLectotype: MNHN-RA 7657, a female from Mexico, (designated by Schmidt)
Holotype: ANSP 6858 [aglaeope]
Holotype: MNHN-RA 3921, fide Roux-Esteve (1983); MNHN 4624, in error (specimen is a frog), fide Smith & Taylor (1945) [affinis]
Holotype: MHNB 9422 [alienus]
Holotype: MNHN-RA 3920, fide Roux-Esteve (1983) [apiatus]
Holotype: AMNH 65163 [macdougalli]
Holotype: MCZ 31872 [mayensis]
Holotype: lost, was ZSM, uncatalogued (lost fide Franzen & Glaw 2007), male. Roze (1996) stated that the holotype was destroyed during World War II [sapperi]
Holotype: FMNH 4201; Paratype: ZSM 8/1922 (?), adult, “Insel Corozal (Brit. Honduras)” [Belize], no further collection data [stantoni] 
DiagnosisDefinition: A single-banded coral snake with or without white bands delimiting the black bands. The snout is black to the anterior part of the parietals, but in several subspecies the point of the snout and several supralabials are white. Several subcaudals frequently are entirely white. The males have no supraanal tuberdes; there are 1+1 or 1+2 temporals (Roze 1996: 153-157, including the following subspecies).

Description (diastema): Males have 188 to 203 (196.1) and females have 203 to 217 (211.7) ventrals; subcaudals 44 to 49 (46.2) in males and 32 to 38 (35.1) in females; none or very few entire; 1+1 temporals, very rarely 1+2 on one side of the head only. Examined: 35 males and 30 females, ineluding two holotypes.
The black snout color extends back to inelude the anterior part of the parietals and the first few supralabials. This is followed by a red parietal band. Rarely there are light spots on the snout. Below, the chin is light or mottled with black. The nuchal black band is usually complete, but occasional specimens have the black bands interrupted laterally or reduced to dorsal spots. The black bands are 2 to 3 dorsals and ventrals long. The white bands are one half to one scale long. The red bands are about 4 to 7 times as long as the black bands, with regular black tips on all scales. Ventrally, the red bands have black mottling; in some specimens this is quite heavy, but occasionally the red ventrals are nearly immaculate. On the tail, there are black and white bands only.
The males have 10 to 16 (13.4) and the females have 11 to 16 (13.6) black body bands, but most specimens have fewer than 14. Males have 4 to 6 (5.2) and females have 3 to 5 (3.7) black tail bands.

Description (affinis): Males have 207 to 211 (209) and females have 211 to 224 (222.1) ventrals; subcaudals are about 51 in males and 38 to 40 (38.7) in females; 1+1 temporals. Examined: 2 males and3 females, induding the holotype.
The black of the snout extends back to indude the entire frontal and the anterior part of the parietals. The black nuchal band covers the parietal tips and is usually incomplete ventrally. Below, the chin is white. The black bands are 1Y2 to 2 dorsals and 2 ventrals long. They are reduced on the first or second dorsal row to 1 scale in length or may be interrupted or incomplete ventrally. The white bands are Y2 to 1 dorsallong. The red bands are 5 to 6 times as long as the black bands, with irregular black tips on almost all scales. They are sometimes marked with larger black spots. Ventrally, the red scales have numerous black spots or mottling. On the tail there are only black and white bands.
The males have 19 to 22 (20.5) and the females 19 to 20 (19.60) black body bands. The males have 9 and the females have 6 black tail bands.

Description (aglaeope): Males have 204 and females have 216 to 217 (216.5) ventrals; subcaudals around 54 in males and 40to41(40.5)infemales;1+1or1+2temporals.Examined: 1 male and 2 females, induding the holotype.
The snout has a large and irregular white spot covering at least the rostral and the internasals. The first supralabials may be either light or dark. The black snout color extends to the anterior end of the parietals. The black nuchal band covers the tips of the parietal and is complete ventrally. The chin is white with a few reduced, irregular spots on some scales. The black bands of the body are 2 to 3 dorsals long; the white bands are absent or poorly marked. The red bands are 2 to 3 times as long as the black bands, but an additional black band is equidistant between the 2 black bands. This additional band is partially interrupted and formed by large irregular black spots, while the red scales have no black tips. This coloration gives the impression that the black tips have been concentrated in the middle of the red band to form a central black band or spot. This additional, irregular, and partially interrupted black band does not cover the ventrals, although it may be represented by a few black ventral spots. Only black and white bands are found on the tail.
The males have about 27 black bands and the females have 31 to 34 (32.5). The males have about 10 black tail bands and the females have 7 to 10 (8.5).

Remarks: M. d. aglaeope can be easily distinguished by the presence of the additional black band in the middle of the red band. This subspecies intergrades with M. d. sapperi in the Motagua Valley of Guatemala.

Description (alienus): Males have 193 to 203 (198.1) and females have 205 to 218 (211.8) ventrals; subcaudals 48 to 54 (52.7) in males and 39 to 45 (42.3) in females, up to 80% of the subcaudals undivided; always 1+2 temporals. Examined: 48 males and 30 females, induding all holotypes.
The black snout coloration extends over at least one third of the parietals, but mayaiso extend over the entire parietals, in which case it fuses with the nuchal black band. Usually there are no white spots on the snout. The chin is white or with occasional dark spots on the first infralabials. The black bands are 4 to 5 dorsals and ventrals long, delimited by white or yellow bands about 2 dorsals long. Occasional specimens have the black bands considerably reduced or nearly absent or only the black nuchal band present. The number of black bands in these cases is 2 to 6. On the other hand, 1 specimen out of 78 examined had 20 black body bands and irregular black-tipped red scales, an aberrant coloration. The red bands are 3 to 6 times longer than the black bands and have black tips on all scales. Ventrally, the red bands are usually inunaculate. Only black and white bands are found on the tail.
The males have 8 to 17 (13.4) and the females have 9 to 16 (14.7) black body bands. However, more than 90% of the specimens have no more than 14 black bands. On the tail, the males have 3 to 6 (4.2) and the females have 2 to 5 (3.4) black bands.

Description (apiatus): Males have 195 to 213 (205.8) and females 217 to 227 (223.4) ventrals; subcaudals 48 to 57 (53.4) in males and 36 to 43 (40.1) in females; nearly all specimens have 15 or more undivided subcaudals; 1+1 or 1+2 temporals. Examined: 22 males and 18 females, including the holotype.
The snout is dark except the point of the snout, and the lower part of the supralabials are white. The chin is white or with a few reduced black spots. The nuchal black band reaches the parietal tips; occasionally there is an irregular black spot on the white parietal band. Black and red bands extend over the entire body; no white bands are present. The black bands are about 2 dorsals long; occasional bands may be interrupted or displaced along the midventralline. The red bands are up to 3 times as long as the black bands, but in some specimens they are only slightly longer. A few black spots are concentrated in the central area of the red bands, but they do not form a central black band as they frequently do in M. d. aglaeope. Occasionally, the black central spots may be very few, and in some specimens they are completely absent, producing a body pattern of simple red and black bands. Ventrally, the red bands are usually immaculate, but sometimes they have a very few small black spots. There are black and white bands only on the tail.
The males have 46 to 60 (46.9) and the females have 44 to 61 (49.3) black body bands. The males have 11 to 15 (13.1) and the females have 8 to 11 (9.8) black tail bands.

The red- and black-banded body coloration and the high number of black bands makes it easily distinguishable from other subspecies.

Description (macdougalli): Males have 200 to 206 (205.1) and females have 211 to 218 (215.0) ventrals; subcaudals 49 to 56 (52.6) in males and about 42 in females; about half of the specimens have up to 6 undivided subcaudals; 1+1 or 1+2 temporals. Examined: 5 males and 3 females, including the holotype.
The snout is black but part of the rostral and the lower parts of the supralabials are white. The chin is white or yellow with black spots on the first pair of genials and/or the first infralabials. The black nuchal band may extend over the parietal tips; it may be complete or interrupted ventrally. The black bands are 1 to 2% dorsals long, delimited by yellow bands 1 to 2 dorsals long. The red bands are 4 to 5 times longer than the black bands; they have irregular black spots, but these are not found on all scales and they do not look like regular black-tipped scales. Ventrally, the red areas have some black spots. Black, white, or yellow bands are found on the tail.
The males have 15 to 18 (16.7) and the females have 13 to 19 (15.6) black body bands. The black tail bands may be longer (or not) than the yellow bands; the males have 7 to 9 (8.1) and the females have about 6 black tail bands.

Description (sapperi): Males have 197 to 207 (203.4) and females have 214 to 225 (218.9) ventrals; subcaudals 50 to 55 (52.9) in males and 37 to 42 (40.1) in females; usually 1+2, occasionally 1+1, temporals on one side. Examined: 32 males and 21 females, including two holotypes.
The snout is black to the anterior part of the parietals. About 70% of the specimens have a light spot on the snout that covers the rostral and intemasals and occasionally the lower part of the first supralabials. The nuchal black band covers the tips of the parietals and 3 to 4 dorsals. It may be complete or interrupted ventrally. The black bands are 2 to 3 dorsals and ventrals long. The white or yellow bands are Y2 to 1 scale long. The red bands are 4 to 7 tirnes as long as the black bands; they have irregular black-tipped scales or small spots fused to form larger spots. Ventrally, the red bands usually lack black markings. On the tail, the black bands are longer than the white bands.
The males have 22 to 33 (26.4) and the females have 25 to 32 (28.7) black body bands. The males have 7 to 11 (8.6) and the females have 6 to 9 (7.2) black tai! bands.
 
CommentColor plate 76 in VILLA et al. 1988. This species is highly variable and some authors therefore question the validity of several of the subspecies (CAMPBELL & LAMAR 1989: 106; FRASER 1973). Synonymy and subspecies partly after PETERS & OREJAS-MIRANDA 1970. Micrurus diastema bernadi is listed here as valid species. Micrurus diastema alienus has been synonymized with M. diastema sapperi by some authors (fide STAFFORD 2000). Micrurus diastema affinis (JAN 1858) is listed as separate subspecies by WELCH 1994). A photo of M. d. sapperi is shown in SMITH & CHISZAR (2001).

Hybridization: the various subspecies of diastema intergrade in sveral contact zones (see Roze 1996: 153 ff for details).

Venomous!

Mimicry: Micrurus diastema is mimicked by Lampropeltis triangulum, Ninia sebae, Clelia scytalina (juvenile), Geophis juliai, Geophis semidoliatus, Oxyrhopus petola, Pliocercus wilmarai, Scaphiodontophis annulatus, and Pliocercus elapoides (TORRE-LORANCA et al. 2006).

Key: see Roze 1996: 153 for a key to the subspecies of M. diastema. 
EtymologyFrom Greek, diastema means aspace or interval, apparently alluding to the long interspaces of red between the black bands. Epistema comes from the Greek words epi meaning above or upon and stema meaning thread, probably alluding to the weavy, thread- like black ornaments on the head. Crebripunctatus is Latin from crebri, meaning frequent or elose and punctatus meaning marked with small punctures or dotsi thus the name means "marked with frequent spots," alluding to the regular black tips on the red scales.
affinis: Latin afftnis means related or allied, probably alluding to its similarity to other single-banded Mexican coral snakes.
aglaeope: Greek from aglao meaning splendor or beauty, apparently alluding to the splendor and beauty of this coral snake and i.ts brilliantly red bands, un- dimmed by black tips.
alienus: Latin alienus is foreign or stranger, probably alluding to the foreign and strange appearance of the type specimen that has hardly any black bands as compared to the regularly black and red coral snakes. Mayensis means that the snake is from the region where Mayan Indians lived.
apiatus: Etymology: The name can have several meanings in Latin. It could be from apex and apicis meaning a long mark, alluding to the black short bands or to its dwell- ing on high mountains, or from apicatus meaning adomed with a cap, alluding to its head marking.
macdougalli: Named after T. C. MacDougall "who has made valuable collections in the Tehuatepec region that have greatly facilitated the herpetological survey of that region," as stated in the original description.
sapperi: Sapperi is named after Professor Sapper, who collected and sent collections of reptiles from Guatemala to the Munich Museum. The name guatemalensis denotes its presence in Guatemala, while stantoni is dedicated to W. A. Stanton, a Jesuit priest who collected the holotype.
(etymologies from Roze 1996: 154-158). 
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