Bungarus multicinctus – Many-banded Krait

Many-banded Krait, Bungarus multicinctus

Many-banded Krait, Bungarus multicinctus, first record in Thailand!

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.
Currently, the plan is to compare the DNA to the known krait species like Bungarus multicinctus and Bungarus wanghaotingi to check if it is either one of these or needs to be described as a new species. 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.

Bungarus multicinctus, Many-banded Krait

Bungarus multicinctus, Many-banded Krait from Thailand

facts

Dangerous? Yes, very 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…
Venom Neurotoxins
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
Threats Not known
Notes: First recorded in Thailand by us in July 2016.
A bite of a juvenile of this, or at least a very closely related species, has caused the death of herpetologist Joe Slowinsky.

Description

Bungarus multicinctus vertebral scales

The vertebral scales (red) of the Bungarus multicinctus are distinctively larger than the other dorsal scales (green). The enlarged vertebral scales are not found in wolf, bridle or large-toothed snakes.

The Many-banded Krait – Bungarus multicinctus – has a dark brown – blackish body with thin white bands. The band count in our individual was 48. According to various sources minimum band count is about 35, but some of this information might be questionable after e.g. the Bungarus wanghaotingi has been split off from this species.
The body is triangular shaped with enlarged vertebral scales, the head only slightly distinct from the neck. The tongue is pinkish, the ventrals cream.

Similar-looking species

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.

  • Dinodon septentrionalis – Northern Large-toothed Snake (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 fasciatus – Banded Wolf Snake (up to 90cm) is very similar in coloration, and body shape. Generally the white bands are a bit wider than in Bungarus multicinctus. As with the Dinodon species, the wolf snake lacks enlarged vertebral scales, which are very distinctly larger in the krait.
  • Lycodon subcinctus – White-banded Wolf Snake (up to 100cm) is very similar in coloration, and body shape. Generally the fewer white bands are a bit wider than in Bungarus multicinctus. As with the Dinodon species, the wolf snake lacks enlarged vertebral scales, which are very distinctly larger in the krait.
  • Dryocalamus davisonii – Davison’s Bridle Snake (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 (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.
  • Bungarus wanghaotingi – Wanghaoting’s Krait (up to 110cm) has yet to be confirmed in Thailand, but a friend of ours has found roadkills of kraits with thin bands but lower in total band count than the Bungarus multicinctus. This could turn out to be Bungarus wanghaotingi, or perhaps an undescribed krait species. It is very similar as the Many-banded Krait, only clear visible difference would be the lower band count which should be maximum 42 bands according to the literature. A large scale DNA study would be very welcome to clear up these complex species.
Bungarus multicinctus, Many-banded Krait

Bungarus multicinctus, Many-banded Krait

Behaviour

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.

Taxonomy

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.

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