Bungarus multicinctus – Many-banded Krait
Spoiler alert: According to a recent study (Molecular phylogeny found the distribution of Bungarus candidus in China (Squamata: Elapidae); (Xie et al. 2018)), it seems that the Malayan Krait (Bungarus candidus) can have a high number of thin white bands, which was previously only thought to occur in the Many-banded Krait (Bungarus multicinctus) and Wanghaoting’s Krait (Bungarus m. wanghaotingi). Morphologically these species are very similar. And now the virtually only clear difference (the banding) is disputed, we can no longer say for sure to which species the specimen in this post belongs. A thorough molecular study of the Thai populations of black and white banded kraits is needed to clear it up.
For now we will keep this post online, until proven otherwise. It’s still interesting that these differently looking specimens seem to be resticted to a certain range. We encountered a second specimen with thin white bands but with a lower band count (35 vs 50 of the first specimen) not far from the locality where the other specimen was found. Body and head seemed not as slender as in the first specimen but it’s hard to say if this is just individual variety or if these are different species. Hopefully we will get more certainty in the future.
We proudly announce that we have recorded the first Many-banded Krait, Bungarus multicinctus, in Thailand!
On an expedition to an unexplored part of Thailand, we found this amazing snake crossing the road. That makes a total krait species count of four within Thailand. We hope to be able to followup on this find as soon as possible.
With the currently available keys, it should be Bungarus multicinctus.
We were thrilled when we encountered this species, and will share some pics of this individual with you.
Update: End of October 2018 we encountered a second thin-banded specimen in the same region. This specimen was more heavily built and with a lower band count of 34 – 35.
|Dangerous?||Fixed front-fanged, potent venom (in terms of LD50 values it is the most venomous snake of South-east Asia!); However, the fact we are the first ones to record this species in Thailand shows an encounter is not exactly likely, so there are other species you should have more to ‘worry’ about…|
|Length||Average 100cm – 150cm, up to 185cm|
|Diet||Snakes, eels, frogs, lizards, rodents|
|How easy to find||Since it hasn’t been recorded in Thailand by anyone before us, it is probably not common to encounter. Likely to be very localized. Kraits are never easy to find!|
|Best time of year||Most likely wet months. We found it active in July.|
|Best time of day||At night|
|Notes:||First recorded in Thailand by us in July 2016, a specimen with 50 thin white bands on its body and tail combined. A second somewhat similar specimen was found by us in 2018, but with 34 – 35 thin white bands.|
|A bite of a juvenile of this, or at least a very closely related species, has caused the death of herpetologist Joe Slowinsky.|
DescriptionThe Many-banded Krait – Bungarus multicinctus – has a dark brown – blackish body with thin white bands. The band count in our individual is 50 on body and tail combined. Minimum band count is supposed to be about 35, but it varies per source.
The body is triangular shaped with enlarged vertebral scales, the head only slightly distinct from the neck. The tongue is pinkish, the ventrals cream.
A second specimen we encountered seemed more heavily built, both the body as well as the head. This specimen had only 34 – 35 thin white bands.
Confusion would be most likely with the harmless large-toothed or wolf snakes, or the other species of krait. If you intend to handle any of the black and white snakes in Thailand, please, stay safe and always consider it to be a krait unless you are 200% positive it is one of the harmless species.
- Lycodon septentrionalis – Northern Large-toothed Snake
This species (up to 1.2m) is very similar in coloration, pattern, and body shape. The easiest way to tell both species apart is the lack of enlarged scales on the vertebral ridge of this wolf snake.
- Lycodon subcinctus – White-banded Wolf Snake
This species (up to 100cm) is very similar in coloration, and body shape. Generally the fewer white bands are wider than in Bungarus multicinctus. As with the L. septentrionalis species, the wolf snake lacks enlarged vertebral scales, which are very distinctly larger in the krait.
- Lycodon davisonii – Davison’s Bridle Snake
This species’ (up to 90cm) coloration can be similarly black and white, the pattern towards the tail of the bridle snake gets more ‘net-like’ while in the Bungarus multicinctus the pattern consistently shows clean white bands towards the tail. The bridle snake has no enlarged vertebral scales, and the body shape is much more slender, thin and long.
- Bungarus candidus – Blue or Malayan Krait
This species (up to 160cm) is very similar to the Many-banded Krait, however the white bands are generally much wider, usually at least half or even similar in width as the black bands. We commonly see that the white bands in the Bungarus candidus are ‘dirty’, as in slightly mottled with black. Which seems not the case apart from perhaps the first couple bands of the Bungarus multicinctus that has more clean white bands.
Like most kraits, the Many-banded Krait is known to be nocturnal, and terrestrial. Actively searches for prey, primarily other snakes species.
Range & habitat
Due to this being a new record for Thailand, we are hesistant to share the location of our find. Our apologies for that, but hopefully you understand. Elevation around 300 – 400m asl. Riparian forest/ mixed deciduous forest.
A second specimen was found around around 700 – 750m elevation foraging along a small rocky stream.
Not much we can say about this at this point. We are awaiting results from DNA tests.
How to find this species in Thailand?
Very localized, so without knowing the right locations, very likely nearly impossible to find. Hopefully if we learn more about this species in the future we can share more details.