A new colour morph of Calliophis bibroni (Squamata: Elapidae) and evidence for Müllerian mimicry in Tropical Indian Coralsnakes

Dileep Kumar Raveendran, Deepak V, Eric Nelson Smith, Utpal Smart


Meristic and molecular data provide evidence for an exceptional multi-chromatic defensive strategy in an Indian coralsnake, Calliophis bibroni from the state of Kerala. We propose a mimcry hypothesis involving a combination of an ontogenetic colour shift at maturity, from initial Müllerian mimicry with a subtropical Indian coralsnake Sinomicrurus macclellandii, to one of two very different adult dorsal colours: 1) an aposematic pattern resembling that of the sympatric tropical Indian coralsnake Calliophis castoe or 2) a cryptic dark brown colouration. This study briefly compares the rich body of work on mimicry in New World elapids to that of their Old World counterparts while addressing the hitherto unexplored yet exciting prospect of investigating mimicry, crypsis and aposematism in Old World coralsnakes.

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