Survival is the main priority of any animal, so that, faced with a danger, they adopt very varied responses, but all of them to achieve the same end, subsist. Pufferfish, for example, when threatened, swell to a considerable size and frighten their predator. Other animals are capable of secreting toxic substances, known as poison, to immobilize or kill their enemies and some may even pretend they are dead, such as the opossum, so that their predator loses interest and leaves.
The false coral, which is harmless, uses colors similar to those of the real coral snake, very poisonous, so that other animals confuse it with it and do not dare to attack it. Do you want to know how you can distinguish them?
Coral snake characteristics
They are a group of snakes belonging to the Elapidae family , a family of poisonous snakes that have hollow fangs, through which they inject their venom. There are about 89 species of coral snakes and they are relatives, according to their taxonomic rank, of many other species known for their dangerousness such as the cobra, the mamba and the sea snake.
It spans the southern United States, from southern North Carolina to Louisiana and into Florida. They usually inhabit areas of dense vegetation, finding themselves hidden under the litter or under the ground and coming to the surface only when it rains or during the breeding season.
They are carnivorous and usually feed on reptiles and amphibians such as frogs, lizards or smaller snakes, paralyzing them first with their venom and swallowing them slowly thanks to the large opening capacity of their jaw. In hunting it is moderately aggressive, although in general they are peaceful and solitary animals, biting humans in a very punctual way and there is no registered death to date.
It belongs to the Colubridae family and a great variety of names are attributed to it, coral king snake, mouse coral, red king snake, etc. Around 24 subspecies are recognized , which, despite being very similar, present features that distinguish them, such as variations in their length or coloration.
It spans southern Canada, the United States, Central America, Mexico, and northern South America. They are usually found, like the real coral, in areas with a lot of vegetation, although they also inhabit open savannas and in some cases even urban areas.
They are carnivorous and feed mainly on small mammals such as mice and rats, some birds, including their eggs, and other smaller reptiles, such as other snakes, frogs or lizards. It is a solitary species, so that it only forms groups in periods of hibernation, they usually have nocturnal habits, although some specimens can also be active during the day. They are not dangerous or poisonous species , the only fear or concern they can cause is their confusion with the real coral snake .
Next, we explain what are the differences between coral snake and false coral , which will be the keys to be able to recognize which species is the specimen in front of us if we find one.
Differences in color pattern
The coral snake has yellow, red and black rings, like the false coral, although the shade of yellow of this can be almost whitish and, in addition, they present them in a different order. However, they differ in the order in which those rings are presented. In this way, if the yellow color appears next to the red color, we will find an authentic coral, the common pattern being red-yellow-black-yellow-red, although it is also true that not all species follow the same pattern, for which may vary depending on the region.
In addition, in the coral snake, the rings are closed, that is, they even run through the belly of the snake, while the false coral can only present the colors on its side, its belly being white and the rings therefore incomplete.
Differences according to the queue
The real coral only has the black and yellow color in its tail, without there being even a small shade of red. In addition, when feeling threatened, the coral snake swells the end of its tail to simulate that it is another head and create confusion before its attacker.
Differentiate the coral snake from the false coral by its head
The shape and color of its head can be an indicator to reveal the authenticity of the species. The true coral has a black and yellow head and a short snout, compared to other similar species that have a longer head and other shades.
Differences according to the eyes
The true coral has small eyes in relation to the size of its head, with round pupils of similar colors to those of the rest of its body, following the same color pattern. On the other hand, the false coral shows eyes of a larger size, dark reddish-brown and more elongated pupils.