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Texas Coral Snake - Micrurus tener

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The Texas Coral Snake has the traditional coloration associated with coral snakes, with black, yellow and red banding. It is capable of growing to 40 inches in length, but most are closer to 24 inches. Males are typically smaller than females. They have smooth scales, a rounded head, and eyes with round pupils. Albino (lacking black pigment) and anerythristic (lacking red pigment) specimens have been found in the wild.

Range & Habitat

The Texas Coral Snake (Micrurus tener) is a species of venomous coral snake, an elapid snake found in the southern United States, primarily in Texas, but it also ranges northeast into neighboring states of Louisiana and Arkansas, and south into Mexico in the states of Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosí, Guanajuato, Queretaro to Morelos.

This species of snake is fossorial; spending the vast majority of the time buried in the soil, under leaf litter, or perhaps in rotten logs. It is secretive and rarely seen exposed, despite the fact that it is largely diurnal (active during the day).

Behavior

All coral snakes are shy, secretive animals, typically nocturnal. They spend most of their time hiding in leaf litter, under logs, or in burrows in the ground. Their primary diet consists of other snakes, primarily earth snakes, and other small fossorial species. They will also occasionally eat small lizards, but the consumption of rodents by coral snakes is rare.

The Venom

Texas Coral Snake venom is a powerful neurotoxin, causing neuromuscular dysfunction. No deaths from coral snake bites have been reported in the United States since coral snake antivenom has been available to hospitals. Prior to the availability of antivenom, the fatality rate of coral snake envenomations is estimated at 10%, and death was primarily due to respiratory or cardiovascular failure.

The coral snake is proteroglyphous, meaning it has a pair of hollow, small, fixed fangs in the front of its upper jaw, through which the venom is injected and encouraged via a chewing motion. Due to this method of venom delivery, a coral snake must bite and hold on for a brief time to deliver a significant amount of venom, unlike how a viper can simply strike and introduce a large amount of venom at once. Many bites from coral snakes do not inject any venom at all, and the small size of coral snakes makes their ability to bite humans rather limited, but a bite from any coral snake should be considered extremely serious and medical treatment sought immediately as symptoms of envenomation are known to sometimes delay manifestation for as long as 12 hours, but once they present, often progress rapidly.

Additional Notes

The Texas Coral Snake was briefly reclassified as a subspecies of the Eastern Coral Snake, Micrurus fulvius, but more recent research has determined that it has enough morphological differences to be considered its own species.

There are several variations to the saying "Red touches yellow, kill a fellow. Red touches black, venom lack." While it is true that the red and yellow bands of this species do touch, childish rhymes should not be trusted for proper identification. For example, outside of North America the "rules" of this rhyme are broken by numerous Coral Snake species and their mimics.