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Common Krait (Bungarus Caeruleus): Profile and Information

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The common krait, also commonly called the Indian krait or the blue krait, is a unique species of venomous snake belonging to the genus Bungarus Ocala to the Indian subcontinent.

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This animal has a spot among the “big four” species of snake inflicting the most snakebites on people in India.

  • Family: Elapidae
  • Scientific name: Bungarus caeruleus
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Higher classification: Indian krait
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Rank: Species

Description of common krait

  • Length: The common krait grows to an average length of 0.9 m (3.0 ft), but some have been seen to grow up to 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in).
  • Tail: The Males of this snake are longer, with tails that are proportionately longer.
  • Head and body: The head of this reptile is flat, and the neck is hardly apparent. The eyes are rather tiny, with rounded pupils that are indistinguishable in life. The body of the snake is cylindrical and tapers towards the tail. The tail of the krait is short and rounded. As for the head shields, they are regular, without loreals; four shields appear along the margin of the snake’s lower lip; the third and fourth supraoculars touches the eye.
  • Scales: The scales of this snake are highly polished, having 15-17 rows; the vertebral row of scale is apparently enlarged and hexagonal.
  • Coloration: The krait is generally bluish black or black, with around 40 tiny, white crossbars which are sometimes indistinct or absent anteriorly. However, the pattern is complete and can be easily spotted as they are well defined in the young krait, which is marked with conspicuous crossbars even ventrally. In older snakes, the narrow white lines may be noticed as a series of connected spots, with a bold spot on the vertebral area. A white spot just in front of the eyes may be present; the belly and the upper lips are white.

Distribution and habitat

This snake species is spotted mainly in the central Indian Peninsular from Sindh in Pakistan, all the way to the West Bengal plains and even in Dharmanagar, Tripura.

The krait also occurs throughout Southern parts of India and Sri Lanka at highlands or elevations of up to about 1600 m. Locations, where these snakes have also been recorded, include Afghanistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

Its natural range is made up of a wide variety of habitats. Kraits are found in low scrub jungles and fields, as well as areas that are inhabited. The snake is known to take abode in rat holes, termite mounds, brick piles, and even inside houses.

Kraits are also frequently found in areas with water or in close proximity to a water source.

Feeding

The common krait is known to feed majorly on other snakes, including the “blind worms” (these are snakes belonging to the genus Typhlops), and also eat other kraits, including the freshly born.

The snake also feeds on little mammals like rats, and mice, frogs, and lizards. The young Kraits are known to eat arthropods.

Behavior

common krait

There have been reported Behavioral differences in this snake during day and night time, mostly in B. caeruleus.

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In the day, it is a sluggish snake and generally docile. It can often be found hiding in loose soil, rodent holes, or beneath the debris, so it is rarely spotted. It often rolls its body to form a loose, coiled ball, keeping its head properly concealed.

When in this ‘coiled’ up condition, the snake doesn’t have a problem with considerable handling, but any slight overhandling will instigates bites.

However, once it’s night, this snake becomes very active and escapes by hissing loudly, or staying still, occasionally dishing out nasty bites on the source of the annoyance.

When agitated, this snake will coil up with its head hidden, and it’s body flattened, as it makes jerky movements.

Occasionally, it may also raise its tail. It is a snake often reluctant to bite, but when it eventually does, it usually holds on for a while, which makes it easy for this snake to inject large amounts of venom.

The snake may become aggressive at night time if threatened, mainly because this is the time when it is most active. It is responsible for the 2nd highest reported snake bites in India. In Bangladesh, the krait is responsible for 28% of total snake bites.

Krait venom

The venom of the common krait consists majorly of potent neurotoxins, which usually induced muscle paralysis. Clinically, the venom of these snakes contains presynaptic and postsynaptic neurotoxins, which will generally affect the synaptic cleft.

Kraits are nocturnal snakes, so they seldom come in contact with humans during daylight hours; most reported incidents occur majorly at night.

Frequently, it is reported that little or no pain is felt from a krait bite, and this can offer victims a false sense of reassurance. Typically, victims of krait bites complain of severe abdominal cramps, followed by a progressive paralysis.

There may be an occurrence of death from the envenoming, and that will likely take place between four to eight hours after the bite happens. The cause of death from krait bite is a general respiratory failure (suffocation).

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Often during the wet or rainy season, the krait comes out of their holes or hiding places and take refuge inside dry houses. If a person suffers a krait bite while asleep, he or she may not realize he has been struck, as the bite feels typically like that of a mosquito or an ant.

The victim may die before they get the chance to wake up. Krait bites are notable for eliciting tiny amounts of local inflammation/swelling. This inflammation may help in species identification if the victim does see the snake.

Symptoms of krait bite

There are a few symptoms of a krait bite, and they include:

  1. Tightening of the victim’s facial muscles in one to two hours of the snake bite;
  2. The inability of the victim who has been bitten to see or talk
  3. If left untreated, the victim may die from respiratory paralysis in four to five hours of being bite.

A clinical toxicology study offers an untreated mortality rate of about 70-80%. It has been recorded that in Bangladesh, more than half of the total snake bite deaths reported are caused by the common krait.

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