Coral snake

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The coral snakes are a large group of elapid snakes that can be subdivided into two distinct groups, Old World coral snakes and New World coral snakes. Coral snakes are most notable for their red, yellow/white, and black colored banding. (Several nonvenomous species have similar coloration, however, including the Scarlet Kingsnake, the Milk Snake, and the Chionactis occipitalis annulata.) In some regions, the order of the bands distinguishes between the non-venomous mimics and the venomous coral snakes, inspiring some folk rhymes "if red touches yellow, you're a dead fellow (for Coral Snakes); if red touches black, you're okay, Jack (for similar looking Milk Snakes)". However, this only reliably applies to coral snakes native to North America: Micrurus fulvius (Eastern or common), Micrurus tener (Texas), and Micruroides euryxanthus (Arizona), found in the southern and eastern United States. Coral snakes found in other parts of the world can have distinctly different patterns, have red bands touching black bands, have only pink and blue banding, or have no banding at all. Most species of coral snake are small in size. North American species average around 3 feet (91 cm) in length, but specimens of up to 5 feet (150 cm) or slightly larger have been reported. Aquatic species have flattened tails, to act as a fin, aiding in swimming. Coral snakes vary widely in their behavior, but most are very elusive, fossorial snakes which spend the vast majority of their time buried beneath the ground or in the leaf litter of a rainforest floor, only coming to the surface during rains or during breeding season. Some species, like Micrurus surinamensis are almost entirely aquatic and spend most of their lives in slow-moving bodies of water that have dense vegetation. Like all elapid snakes, coral snakes use a pair of small fangs fixed in the front of their top jaw to deliver their venom. They feed on smaller snakes, lizards, frogs, and nestling birds and rodents etc. The venom takes time to fully take effect. Coral snakes have a tendency to hold on to a victim when biting, unlike vipers which have retractable fangs and tend to prefer to strike and let go immediately. Coral snakes are not aggressive or prone to biting however, and account for less than one percent of the number of snake bites each year in the United States. Most coral snake bites in the United States are legitimate occurring because of accidental contact with the snake while engaged in an outdoor activity such as gardening. The bite of a coral snake may soon become increasingly more dangerous, ironically because of the relatively few bites each year. Production of coral snake antivenom in the United States has ceased because it is not profitable. The current antivenom stock is scheduled to expire in 2010, after two consecutive expiration date extensions approved by the FDA. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]





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