Micrurus mipartitusRedtail Coral Snake

Geographic Range

Micrurus mipartitus (red-tailed coral snake) is currently distributed from Nicaragua to the northern regions of South America (Rey-Suarez et al., 2012). Red-tailed coral snakes can be found in Panama, Colombia, north and northwestern Venezuela, and western Ecuador (Roze, 1996). While the presence of M. mipartitus in Peru is uncertain, it has been found in Bolivia (Ibáñez et al., 2017). There is little to no information on the introduced range of M. mipartitus, therefore M. mipartitus has likely not been introduced into any novel environments. Even though red-tailed coral snakes are found in abundance in Colombia and are especially common on agricultural land (e.g., coffee and sugarcane farms), human envenomation is considerably rare (Cañas et al., 2017). However, as agricultural land use and human development expands into natural environments, deforestation and habitat loss could increase dangerous human-wildlife interactions such as envenomation. (Cañas, et al., 2017; Ibáñez, et al., 2017; Rey-Suárez, et al., 2012; Roze, 1996)


Micrurus mipartitus is found in a variety of habitats, including some in warm and cool climates and from elevations ranging from 0 to 2,410 meters above sea level (Cañas et al., 2017; Ibáñez et al., 2017). Red-tailed coral snakes usually inhabit wet, montane forests and cloud forests at low elevations (Campbell and Lamar, 2004). They typically are found in tropical or subtropical forests and rainforests, chaparral forests (coastal shrub areas and forests), cloud forests (tropical, montane, moist forests), and montane forests (forests in mountainous territories). Forests with a high vegetation density beneath the main canopy are most favorable to this species (Ibáñez et al., 2017). They have also been documented to inhabit dry, rocky regions in Colombia, though they are more likely to inhabit the tropical or subtropical forests and coastal cloud forests in Venezuela (Campbell and Lamar, 2004). Interactions between M. mipartitus and humans happen frequently in coffee plantations and other agricultural areas in close proximity to human settlements (Campbell and Lamar, 2004). Red-tailed coral snakes are terrestrial and semi-fossorial, meaning they spend much of their lives underground or under the foliage of the rainforest floor (COTERC, 2015; Ibáñez et al., 2017). (Campbell and Lamar, 2004; Cañas, et al., 2017; "COTERC (Canadian Organization for Tropical Education and Rainforest Conservation)", 2015; Ibáñez, et al., 2017)

  • Range elevation
    0 to 2410 m
    0.00 to 7906.82 ft

Physical Description

Micrurus mipartitus is a medium to medium-large (60 to 80 cm in total length), moderately slender species; they be as short as 50 cm at maturity or as long as 120 cm at maturity (Campbell and Lamar, 2004; Roze, 1996). Red-tailed coral snakes usually have bilaterally symmetric or cylindrical bodies, with small round or oval-shaped heads, small eyes, and short, thick tails (Cañas et al., 2017). Unlike other coral snake species in Micrurus, which are usually brightly colored with alternating rings of black, red, and white or yellow from head to tail, M. mipartitus has a more distinctive body color pattern (COTERC, 2015; Mattison, 2007). The red-tailed coral snakes have black and yellow or white alternating bands on their bodies, one intensely red-colored band on their heads, and several black and red alternating bands on their tails (Roze, 1996). The more infamous U.S cousin of M. mipartitus, M. fulvius, has a body pattern of alternating rings of black, yellow, and red, while M. mipartitus has a body pattern of alternating rings of black and yellow or white and a tail with alternating rings of black and red-orange (Campbell and Lamar, 2004). They also have black snouts and one bright red band on the back of their heads posterior to the eyes. There is little differentiation between subspecies. They are usually of similar size (length) and shape, though there is a slight difference between body colors. For example, an individual that once belonged to the subspecies Micrurus mipartitus semipartitus (classification now invalidated) found in Venezuela had a body pattern of alternating black and white rings while another individual belonging to the subspecies Micrurus mipartitus decussatus found in Colombia had a body pattern of alternating black and yellow rings (Roze, 1996). Generally, females and males look very similar, with minute differences such as the underside of the head of M. m. semipartitus, which is almost white in males but has some small black dots in females (Roze, 1996). Usually, the females of Micrurus tend to be longer than the males, but it is unclear whether the adults of M. mipartitus follow the same pattern (COTERC, 2015). However, it has been noted that females of M. mipartitus have more sections of scales on average than males (Campbell and Lamar, 2004). (Campbell and Lamar, 2004; Cañas, et al., 2017; "COTERC (Canadian Organization for Tropical Education and Rainforest Conservation)", 2015; Mattison, 2007; Roze, 1996)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • female larger
  • Range length
    50 to 120 cm
    19.69 to 47.24 in
  • Average length
    60-80 cm


The development of Micrurus mipartitus in the wild and captivity is unknown, so developmental information presented here is hypothesized. Like all snakes that hatch from unsupervised eggs and other species in Micrurus, red-tailed coral snakes are likely independent from birth (COTERC, 2015). Young red-tailed coral snakes presumably hatch from their eggs with full adult coloring and functioning venom just like other species in Micrurus (COTERC, 2015). As for sex determination, indeterminate growth or intermediate stages, there is no specific information available for M. mipartitus. ("COTERC (Canadian Organization for Tropical Education and Rainforest Conservation)", 2015)


Because Micrurus mipartitus is difficult to study in the wild, there is little information on its reproduction strategies. The specific mating system of M. mipartitus is unknown, but other species in Micrurus live relatively solitary lives except during mating season when male-male combat can occur (COTERC, 2015). Male-male combat is usually non-violent and is a widespread ritualistic behavior observed among many snake species; this behavior appears as a contest between male snakes to establish dominance and secure breeding with an available female (COTERC, 2015; Valencia et al., 2020). In 2020, Valencia et al. observed a male-male combat in the subspecies M. m. decussatus in southwestern Ecuador. The two male snakes entwined together wrestling, and the combat ended when the "loser" quit the fight and the "victor" headed towards the forest (Valencia et al., 2020). Usually, species of Micrurus are polygynangrous, meaning that after mating a pair of coral snakes may never meet up again and can have multiple mates over a lifespan, and it is likely to be the same case with M. mipartitus (COTERC, 2015). ("COTERC (Canadian Organization for Tropical Education and Rainforest Conservation)", 2015; Valencia, et al., 2020)

The general reproduction information for red-tailed coral snakes is minimal. Red-tailed coral snakes reproduce sexually, and are oviparous, meaning that they lay eggs (Mattison, 1999; Mattison, 2007). The breeding season for Micrurus mipartitus is unknown, though for the subspecies M. m. decussatus it is hypothesized to be from August to October (Valencia et al., 2020). After the eggs are laid, the incubation period for M. m. decussatus is 84 to 94 days (Valencia et al., 2020). Usually for species in Micrurus, the female digs a burrow and lays 5 to 14 eggs, which hatch after an incubation period of approximately 90 days (COTERC, 2015). Any information about this species is hypothesized to be the same as the reproduction information for its genus until further studies are conducted. ("COTERC (Canadian Organization for Tropical Education and Rainforest Conservation)", 2015; Mattison, 1999; Mattison, 2007; Valencia, et al., 2020)

Beyond male and female contribution to the formation of the egg, red-tailed coral snakes likely provide nothing in the form of parental investment (COTERC, 2015). Common in Micrurus, the female lays her eggs in a burrow and leaves, providing no care or protection for her eggs (COTERC, 2015). ("COTERC (Canadian Organization for Tropical Education and Rainforest Conservation)", 2015)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning


Very little is known about the longest or expected lifespan of Micrurus mipartitus in the wild; due to the elusive nature of M. mipartitus, tracking and studying it in the field is extremely difficult. Because scientists lack basic habitat data, locating populations of Micrurus in the wild, capturing individuals from those populations, and maintaining them in captivity is incredibly difficult (Henao Duque and Núñez Rangel, 2016). In captivity, M. mipartitus and other species of Micrurus are extremely hard to maintain because they refuse to eat and suffer from maladaptation syndrome (Henao Duque and Núñez Rangel, 2016). Due to maladaptation syndrome, M. mipartitus in captivity does not voluntarily feed, so its average expected lifespan in captivity is around 6 months and rarely exceeds 12 months (Henao Duque and Núñez Rangel, 2016). In a study where researchers force fed M. mipartitus in captivity, there was a statistically significant increase in mean weight and mean expected lifespan in captivity; three red-tailed coral snakes from the experiment survived more than a year, and one of them even lived 33 months (Henao Duque and Núñez Rangel, 2016). (Henao Duque and Núñez Rangel, 2016)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    33 (high) months
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    12 (high) months
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    6 months


Similar to many species of Micrurus which are usually solitary and nocturnal or crepuscular (active during dawn and dust), Micrurus mipartitus is a shy, nocturnal, and mostly terricolous or subterranean organism (Cañas et al., 2017; COTERC, 2015; Mattison, 1999; Mattison, 2007). Relatively little is known of M. mipartitus behavior in the wild because of the scarcity and elusive nature of this species. Red-tailed coral snakes are timid, motile, and tend to hide under weeds, leaves, and grasses, and can be found in the dense vegetation of the forest floor (Cañas et al., 2017). Not much is known about the activity patterns of red-tailed coral snakes and whether they are nomadic, migratory, or sedentary. They can be highly aggressive or defensive when restrained, but usually do not seek out confrontation (Campbell and Lamar, 2004). Dangerous human-snake interactions that result in envenomation can occur when red-tailed coral snakes are surprised (accidental encounters), feel cornered or threatened, or are provoked without any opportunity for escape (Cañas et al., 2017). (Campbell and Lamar, 2004; Cañas, et al., 2017; "COTERC (Canadian Organization for Tropical Education and Rainforest Conservation)", 2015; Mattison, 1999; Mattison, 2007)

Home Range

Very little to no research has been done on red-tailed coral snakes' home range or territory size. It can be hypothesized that this species' home range is not very large since M. mipartitus is not a smaller and relatively slow species.

Communication and Perception

Communication and perception information for red-tailed coral snakes is minimal and some information is hypothesized from other members of Micrurus. If Micrurus mipartitus is indeed a solitary species, it needs to communicate with potential mates or potential conspecific rivals (COTERC, 2015). With potential rivals, especially for males during mating season, it is known that the subspecies M. m. decussatus will engage in male-male combat to establish dominance, thus tactile communication is employed through wrestling (Valencia et al., 2020). How mates communicate is unknown, but it is likely either through the use of touch or through the use of chemical compounds such as pheromones. Even though snakes are not strictly deaf (they are very sensitive to vibrations), they still do not use vocal communication between individuals; sounds such as hisses produced by snakes are usually for other animals as a warning sign, and the same could be true for M. mipartitus if it produces sounds (Mattison, 2007).

Information about the perception of M. mipartitus is largely unknown, therefore most of what we know is inferred from traits shared by most snake species. Since red-tailed coral snakes live on the forest floor and are mostly terricolous snakes, they likely have the ability to perceive their environment through touch (Cañas et al., 2017; Mattison, 2007). Other species of snakes can detect heat signatures or feel vibrations, but it is unclear if this applies to M. mipartitus (Mattison, 2007). Usually nocturnal species of snakes have horizontally elliptical pupils, though it is uncertain if this is the case with M. mipartitus (Mattison, 2007). Nocturnal snakes have a high degree of binocular vision, and are incredibly good at gauging distance (Mattison, 2007). Since all snakes have forked tongues, red-tailed coral snakes must perceive or receive information of their surroundings by taking in scents in the form of air-borne molecules (Mattison, 2007). Since most snakes have poor vision and hearing, they usually have a more sensitive sense of smell or taste, and this may be true for M. mipartitus as well (Mattison, 2007). (Cañas, et al., 2017; "COTERC (Canadian Organization for Tropical Education and Rainforest Conservation)", 2015; Mattison, 2007; Valencia, et al., 2020)

Food Habits

Many species of Micrurus feed largely on other reptiles or amphibians, and show preference towards small, limbless species with a lengthened appearance (Henao Duque and Núñez Rangel, 2016; Mattison, 1999; Mattison, 2007). Because most coral snakes in Micrurus have short fangs, they must hold onto their prey after biting it to make sure enough venom is injected, though it is uncertain if this applies to Micrurus mipartitus (COTERC, 2015). As all snakes do not have "teeth" to chew their food, species of Micrurus swallow their food whole (COTERC, 2015). Red-tailed coral snakes are carnivores that hunt other terrestrial vertebrates including snakes and lizards such as Atractus werneri and Lepidoblepharis sanctaemartae (Henao Duque and Núñez Rangel, 2016). Red-tailed coral snakes have relatively small mouths, which makes it hard for them to swallow large prey, therefore most of their food consist of small lizards, snakes, caecilians, and amphisbaenians (COTERC, 2015; Henao Duque and Núñez Rangel, 2016). Red-tailed coral snakes' prey consists of limbless amphisbaenid lizards of Amphisbaena, litter-dwelling colubrid snakes of Atractus (e.g., Atractus sanctaemartae), and slender blind snakes of Leptotyphlops (Roze, 1996). ("COTERC (Canadian Organization for Tropical Education and Rainforest Conservation)", 2015; Henao Duque and Núñez Rangel, 2016; Mattison, 1999; Mattison, 2007; Roze, 1996)

  • Primary Diet
  • carnivore
    • eats terrestrial vertebrates
  • Animal Foods
  • amphibians
  • reptiles


The predators of Micrurus mipartitus are currently unknown. Since red-tailed coral snakes are venomous and are predators themselves, they probably have very few predators that target them specifically. Humans are not known predators of red-tailed coral snakes; however, as dangerous interactions continue to occur near human settlements, people may start to consider them as dangerous pests and target them. Since venomous snakes are generally the apex predator in an ecosystem, the usual predator for most snakes are other snakes (Mattison, 2007). Since M. mipartitus is a predator for other snakes such as the colubrid snakes of Atractus and the slender blind snakes of Leptotyphlops, there could be other species of snakes that target M. mipartitus as their food source (Roze, 1996). Therefore, some anti-predator adaptions found in M. mipartitus include aposematic coloration, and possibly include their venom development and behavioral trends. Some of the most famous examples of warning coloration among all snake species are found in Micrurus, whose bright body colors convey warning or danger to other animals (COTERC, 2015; Mattison, 2007). Red-tailed coral snakes use their bright red, black, and yellow or white rings of color to send a warning to other animals, expressing danger and indicating that they are venomous (Mattison, 2007). While it is known that M. mipartitus uses its venom to hunt, it can be assumed that it also uses venom for defense and self-protection because of the reported incidents of human envenomation (COTERC, 2015). It is likely that when M. mipartitus is threatened by another animal (humans included), it will bite and use its venom for self-defense, though there are currently no studies to support this claim. Scientists do not yet know why red-tailed coral snakes hide underneath the forest floor undergrowth, but one reason may be that they are trying to stay hidden from potential predators. ("COTERC (Canadian Organization for Tropical Education and Rainforest Conservation)", 2015; Mattison, 2007; Roze, 1996)

Ecosystem Roles

There is little information about the ecosystem role of Micrurus mipartitus outside of its role as a predator. Red-tailed coral snakes are known predators to animals in the classes Reptilia and Amphibia such as small lizards, snakes, caecilians, and amphisbaenians (Henao Duque and Núñez Rangel, 2016). They are possibly prey to other species of snakes, but beyond these relationships, little is known of the role of red-tailed coral snakes in their ecosystem. As a predator, M. mipartitus may play a role in population control of other reptiles. There is no information on whether red-tailed coral snakes have any mutualistic partnerships or if they are a host to another species. (Henao Duque and Núñez Rangel, 2016)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The main positive economic importance Micrurus mipartitus can provide for humans is its venom, and consequently the production of anti-venom. Many countries in South America but especially Venezuela and Colombia use M. mipartitus held in captivity to harvest its venom and manufacture anti-venom to be used in the event of an envenomation (Ibáñez et al., 2017; Henao Duque and Núñez Rangel, 2016). In Colombia, the widely distributed red-tailed coral snakes are responsible for the majority of snake-related accidents in the Andean region, therefore a top priority has always been anti-venom production and medical research on the toxins in their venom (Henao Duque and Núñez Rangel, 2016). Bites from coral snakes require administration of a specific anti-venom to be effective, that is why it is not only important to have specific anti-venom in constant production, but it is also important to keep studying the neurotoxins to eventually develop a therapeutic, broad-spectrum anti-venom (Rey-Suárez et al., 2012). Since M. mipartitus does not survive long in captivity, producing anti-venom is a challenge (Henao Duque and Núñez Rangel, 2016). Therefore, it is important to find a solution involving bioengineering to overcome the problem of limited venom availability (Rey-Suárez et al., 2012). Researching the venom of M. mipartitus can also be beneficial to humans since understanding more about how neurotoxins effect the human body can lead to the eventual creation of new therapeutic drugs or treatment plans for different illnesses or diseases.

Since red-tailed coral snakes are known to inhabit coffee plantations and other agricultural areas, there is a possibility that they might adapt to control pest populations (Campbell and Lamar, 2004). Usually near human settlements, pests like rodents pose a problem for crops, and a growing rodent population usually attracts their natural predators (e.g., wild cats and snakes). While M. mipartitus is not known to hunt rodents in the wild, it may adapt its diet if rodents are particularly abundant. Red-tailed coral snakes could potentially offer some form of pest control and benefit humans by hunting crop-destroying rodents, although there have been no studies to support this claim. It is unknown how exactly humans benefit from the ecosystem functions of M. mipartitus. Red-tailed coral snakes may eat other snakes and as a result could benefit human health by reducing venomous snake populations that pose additional threat to humans. (Campbell and Lamar, 2004; Henao Duque and Núñez Rangel, 2016; Ibáñez, et al., 2017; Rey-Suárez, et al., 2012)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

The main negative impact Micrurus mipartitus can have on humans is physical injury through envenomation. Red-tailed coral snakes possess highly toxic venom mostly composed of a novel three-finger toxin that is the major neurotoxic component in the venom cocktail (Rey-Suárez et al., 2012). Compared to other snake species, envenomation by M. mipartitus is relatively rare, but its venom can be potentially life-threatening (Cañas et al., 2017). If a bite that injected venom into the victim (there are dry bites where no venom is actually injected) is left untreated, it can cause serious damage to the body including flaccid paralysis, and eventually cause respiratory arrest and death (Cañas et al., 2017; Henao Duque and Núñez Rangel, 2016). If bitten, victims should be treated with the anti-venom; however, the availability of the anti-venom is low or even unavailable in the areas where M. mipartitus is found (Rey-Suárez et al., 2012). For now, envenomation may be relatively rare, but expansion of human settlement into wild habitats may increase these dangerous human-wildlife interactions. Besides injuring humans via envenomation, M. mipartitus does not cause any significant economic costs (other than the medical bills). (Cañas, et al., 2017; Henao Duque and Núñez Rangel, 2016; Rey-Suárez, et al., 2012)

  • Negative Impacts
  • injures humans

Conservation Status

Overall, Micrurus mipartitus has not been negatively impacted by human activity to the degree of requiring any intervention. Not much is known of its subspecies, but the species as a whole is listed as least concern by the IUCN (Ibáñez et al., 2017). Currently, M. mipartitus does not require any significant or additional protection because several populations can be found in a few protected areas (Ibáñez et al., 2017). Red-tailed coral snakes are found in protected national parks and areas, such as in the Barro Colorado Natural Monument in Panama, the Darien National Park, the Altos de Campana National Park, and the Soberania National Park (Ibáñez et al., 2017). Since M. mipartitus has a wide habitat range in northern South America, it is possible that it may occupy places in other protected parks. It is also possible that as agricultural land use expands into natural habitats, habitat loss could increase. While red-tailed coral snakes are only persecuted by local people in small communities, habitat loss coupled with human expansion may lead to more envenomation and may change the general public perception of the entire species (Ibáñez et al., 2017). (Ibáñez, et al., 2017)

Other Comments

There have been some changes to the classifications of some of the subspecies of Micrurus mipartitus. Currently on the ITIS (Integrated Taxonomic Information System) webpage, there are 5 validated subspecies listed: M. m. anomalus, M. m. decussatus, M. m. mipartitus, M. m. popayensis, and M. m. rozei. The species M. m. semiparititus was once an accepted subspecies classification. However, it has since been invalidated.


Luna Li (author), Colorado State University, Nathan Dorff (editor), Colorado State University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.


having coloration that serves a protective function for the animal, usually used to refer to animals with colors that warn predators of their toxicity. For example: animals with bright red or yellow coloration are often toxic or distasteful.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


Found in coastal areas between 30 and 40 degrees latitude, in areas with a Mediterranean climate. Vegetation is dominated by stands of dense, spiny shrubs with tough (hard or waxy) evergreen leaves. May be maintained by periodic fire. In South America it includes the scrub ecotone between forest and paramo.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


a substance used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


union of egg and spermatozoan


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


an animal which has an organ capable of injecting a poisonous substance into a wound (for example, scorpions, jellyfish, and rattlesnakes).


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Rey-Suárez, P., R. Stuani Floriano, S. Rostelato-Ferreira, M. Saldarriaga-Córdoba, V. Núñez, L. Rodrigues-Simioni, B. Lomonte. 2012. Mipartoxin-I, a novel three-finger toxin, is the major neurotoxic component in the venom of the redtail coral snake Micrurus mipartitus (Elapidae). Toxicon, 60: 851-863. Accessed February 08, 2021 at https://www-sciencedirect-com.ezproxy2.library.colostate.edu/science/article/pii/S0041010112004990#bib42.

Roze, J. 1996. Coral Snakes of the Americas: Biology, Identification, and Venoms. Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publishing.

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