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First report of leucism in Bungarus caeruleus (Serpentes: Elapidae) from West Bengal, India

Phyllomedusa - 17(1), June 2018
Received 31 October 2017
Accepted 21 February 2018
Distributed June 2018
Short CommuniCation
First report of leucism in Bungarus caeruleus
(Serpentes: Elapidae) from West Bengal, India
Anirban Chaudhuri,1 Koustav Chakraborty,2 and Subhadeep Chowdhury3
1 Nature Mates, Nature Club, 6/7, Bijoygarh, Jadavpur, Kolkata 700032, West Bengal, India.
2 Kharagpur Wildlife & Environment Conservation Society, Kharagpur 721304, West Bengal, India.
3 Krishnachak, Dhurkhali, Howrah 711410, West Bengal, India. E-mail:
Keywords: albinism, Common Krait, leucism, partial albinism.
Palavras-chave: albinismo, albinismo parcial, leucismo, serpente Krait-indiana.
Phyllomedusa 17(1):161–163, 2018
© 2018 Universidade de São Paulo - ESALQ
ISSN 1519-1397 (print) / ISSN 2316-9079 (online)
Bungarus caeruleus (Schneider, 1801),
commonly known as the Common Krait, is a
medium-sized venomous snake, which is black
or bluish black above with narrow, white cross
bands that usually are arranged more or less
distinctly in pairs (Figure 1); the venter is white
and the vertebral scales hexagonal (Smith 1943,
Das 2002). The snake is widespread in the plains,
sparsely wooded forests, and agricultural elds
and is quite common in and around human
habitation. The range of B. caeruleus includes
most of the Indian mainland up to 1700 m
(Whitaker and Captain 2008), as well as
Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka
(Das 2002). The diet of this nocturnal snake
primarily consists of snakes, but mice, frogs, and
lizards are eaten occasionally. Cannibalism also
has been recorded (Das 2002).
Leucism and partial albinism occur when an
organism’s body has reduced coloration owing
to a lack of melanin that is caused by a single
recessive allele that affects melanin and pigment
delivery (Owen and Skimmings 1992). Typically,
the eyes, legs, and beaks are pigmented (Sage
1962). These inherited color defects are well-
known phenomena in snakes (Bechtel 1995).
Leucistic snakes usually are white and lack a
body pattern because they have few iridophores,
and few or no melanophores and xanthophores
(Bechtel 1991); however, they have pigmented
eyes that usually are black or blue (Wareham
2005). In contrast, total albino snakes have red
eyes and a yellowish or pinkish coloring owing
to the presence of xanthophores and eritrophores
that usually form visible patterns on their bodies
(Silvestre et al. 2009, Silva et al. 2010, Abegg et
al. 2015). Leucism is inherited and may skip
generations if the leucistic genes are recessive.
The extent and pattern of pigmentation loss may
vary individually (Lobo and Sreepada 2016).
Leucism in wild populations is uncommon
(Walter 1938, Bechtel 1991, Krecsák 2008).
Lacking melanophores and xanthophores, such
snakes are unable to thermoregulate properly in
nature (Kornilios 2014). A weak thermoregulatory
Phyllomedusa - 17(1), June 2018
Figure 1. (A) Bungarus caeruleus, showing typical coloration; (B) leucistic B. caeruleus from Sabang Village Block in
West Midnapore District, West Bengal, India; (C) leucistic B. caeruleus from Baharu Village near Jaynagar,
West Bengal, India; (D) map showing previous and present published reports of leucistic B. caeruleus from
system has a negative effect on locomotion and
digestion in snakes (Stevenson et al. 1985). In
addition, leucistic snakes cannot camouage
themselves; hence, they are easily detected by
prey and predators. These factors doubtless
affect the survival rate and tness of the snakes
(Krecsák 2008).
Such unusual color morphs in Bungarus
caeruleus have been reported from the states of
Gujarat (Vyas 2009, 2014) and Tamil Nadu
(Ganesh and Chandramouli 2011) in India. Here
we report two more instances of leucism in B.
caeruleus from the southern part of West Bengal,
On 09 September 2017, KC rescued a
white Bungarus caeruleus (sex unknown) at
19:30 h from Sabang Village Block in West
Midnapore District, West Bengal, India
(22°17'57.36'' N, 87°59'75.17'' E; 11 m a.s.l.)
(Figure 1B). On 22 October 2017, AC rescued
a white female B. caeruleus at 14:15 h from a
village house in Baharu near Jaynagar, West
Bengal, India (22°20'58.19''’ N, 88°49'81.62''’
E; 4.8 m a.s.l.) (Figure 1C). Both individuals
were measured and examined, and then handed
over to personnel at range ofces of the
Department of Forest for release in their
natural habitat.
Chaudhuri et al.
Phyllomedusa - 17(1), June 2018
The snakes were identied with keys
provided by Whitaker and Captain (2008).
Following the protocol of Whitaker and Captain
(2008), the scalation of both individuals is as
follows: dorsal rows 15:15:15; preoculars 1;
postoculars 2; temporals 1 + 2; supralabials 7;
loreal absent; anal undivided; subcaudals entire;
vertebral scales hexagonal. In Specimen 1 (from
Sabang Village Block in West Midnapore
District, West Bengal, India), ventrals 209,
subcaudals 43, total length 850 mm. In Specimen
2 (from Baharu near Jaynagar, West Bengal,
India), ventrals 205, subcaudals 35, and total
length 710 mm. All morphological parameters
fall within the ranges described in Whitaker and
Captain (2008). Both snakes were white with
black eyes, and lacked any other pigmentation
on their bodies, both dorsally and ventrally.
Acknowledgments.—We thank the Depar-
tment of Forest, West Bengal, for helping in
rescuing the snakes and releasing them back in
their natural habitat. We thank Michele Smith
for initial identication of the color morph.
Authors wish to thank Milind Mutnale for
providing the outline map.
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Editor: Ross D. MacCulloch
First report of leucism in Bungarus caeruleus from West Bengal, India
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