MacClelland's Coral Snake

環紋赤蛇 (huan2wen2chi4she2)

Status: Protected (Cat.II)







MacClelland's Coral Snake - Ecstasy & Tragedy


Sinomicrurus m, swinhoei - Photos (1)

Sinomicrurus m. swinhoei - Photos (2)

Sinomicrurus m. swinhoei - Photos (3)


Family Elapidae, subfamily Elapinae


Max. length 98 cm


Occurrence in Taiwan

Throughout Taiwan, at altitudes up to 1000 m. Rare. (Distribution map)


Global Distribution

The subspecies S. m. swinhoei is endemic to Taiwan.




Small snake; total length up to 98 cm. There are 13 rows of scales, which are smooth, glossy, iridescent. Head is broad oval and not distinct from the neck; body is slim, round; tail is short and ends in a chitinized point. Eye is medium-sized; iris is dark gray to black, indistinct since it blends with surrounding dark area of head, and pupil is circular and black. There are no loreals. Tongue is red to flesh-colored, with red stem and diffuse brown fork tips. Fangs are small, rigid, in anterior part of upper jaw. Upper head is distinctly marked with broad cream to white band across head behind eyes, and is brown-black to black anteriorly and posteriorly while snout is whitish. Upper body and tail are red to rusty brown, with scales flecked with diffuse dark brown or black. There are a series of narrow, black, light-edged cross bands, some incomplete on the flanks. Ventral head is white to very light gray, mental and chin shields may have dark spots. Ventral body and tail are cream to light gray with black designs, irregular in size and in shape. Anal scale is divided and subcaudals are paired.


Biology & Ecology

Sinomicrurus is a genus of venomous elapids known as Oriental or Eastern Coral Snakes, three of which are endemic to Taiwan: S. hatori, S. sauteri and S. macclellandi.

MacClelland's Coral Snake is cathemeral (diurnal or nocturnal) and lives on montane forest floors, in stone cracks and among decayed plant matter. It is not aggressive, and very few reports of attacks by this snake have been recorded, but its venom contains strong neurotoxins which can be life-threatening. Little is known about its biology and ecology, but lizards and small snakes may be its staple foods. Females produce 4-14 eggs in summer.

Many field guides and standard works tend to dismiss the smaller elapids as of little concern. However, the complex nature of the venoms of these small snakes, and higher venom yields than anticipated, underscores the fundamental consideration that even lesser-known, small species may still be capable of clinically significant envenomings after exceptional bites in which a larger than usual quantity of venom is injected. Lethal evenomations have already occurred with other small elapids thought to be harmless, such as the tragic death of Hans Schnurrenberger by a 30 cm Sinomicrurus macclellandi; the initial bite was ignored until neurotoxic symptoms showed up 6 hours later, and death was 8 hours after envenomation. (B. G. Fry et al., 2003)



Sinomicrurus is a compound word assembled from Sino, New Latin for "Chinese", and the Greek words mikros = small, and ura = tail; alluding to the short, pointy tails of this genus;

macclellandi : in honor of British physician and naturalist Sir John McClelland.

swinhoei : in honor of Robert Swinhoe, English naturalist, collector and first European consul in Taiwan.

The Chinese name 環紋赤蛇 (huan2wen2chi4she2) means "Banded (環紋) Red Snake (赤蛇)"






Reptile Database


Coral Snakes

Higher-level phylogeny of Asian and American coral snakes, their placement within the Elapidae (Squamata), and the systematic affinities of the enigmatic Asian coral snake Hemibungarus calligaster (Wiegmann, 1834)

In The phylogenetic relationships of Asian coral snakes (Elapidae: Calliophis and Maticora) based on morphological and molecular characters (Herpetologica 57: 233-245), Slowinski, J.B., J. Boundy & R. Lawson "analysed the phylogeny of oriental coral snakes (together with New World coral snakes) by means of both morphological characters and mitochondrial DNA sequences. The generic classification of these snakes has been subject to confusion and controversy for some time, with some species being assigned to the genus Hemibungarus, but without much robust evidence (see comments on Elapidae 1999 page). The present study identified three main evolutionary groupings within Oriental coral snakes, which the authors recognise as distinct genera:

(i) Calliophis, a tropical Asian genus including the species C. beddomei, C. bibroni, C. gracilis, C. maculiceps, C. melanurus, C. nigrescens, C. intestinalis and C. bivirgatus. Note that Maticora is treated as a synonym of Calliophis.

(ii) Hemibungarus, which contains the single Philippine species H. calligaster.

(iii) Sinomicrurus, a new genus, which contains a series of subtropical species: S. hatori, S. japonicus, S. kelloggi, S. macclellandi and S. sauteri. Both molecular and morphological studies support the hypothesis that this assemblage constitutes the sister group to the New World coral snakes.




Site copyright 2009-2010 Hans Breuer & William Christopher Murphy

   All images on this site are copyright of their respective owners and may only be used with their permission