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The Asian coral snakes (Elapidae: Calliophis and Maticora), many of which are rare and poorly known, are small to medium-sized elapids ranging from tropical to subtropical areas of eastern Asia. Formerly, Calliophis included the following 12 species: C. beddomei, C. bibroni, C. calligaster, C. gracilis, C. hatori, C. japonicus, C. kelloggi, C. macclellandi, C. maculiceps, C. melanurus, C. nigrescens, and C. sauteri. Maticora included two species, M. bivirgata and M. intestinalis.
Based on their phylogenetic analyses, however, Slowinski et al. (2001) concluded that Calliophis was a paraphyletic assemblage due to the exclusion of both Maticora and the New World coral snakes.. They synonymized Maticora with Calliophis and included in Calliophis eight species which are collectively distributed through India and southeast Asia exclusive of the Philippines: C. beddomei, C. bibroni, C. gracilis, C. maculiceps, C. melanurus, C. nigrescens, C. intestinalis, and C. bivirgata. These are small, secretive fossorial snakes that are rarely encountered and poorly known. Collectively, these species are found from the Western Ghats in India east through the remainder of South Asia into Southeast Asia as far as Sumatra and north southern China and Taiwan into the Ryukyu Islands of southern Japan (Cox 2000). All these Asian coral snakes are believed to share a more recent common ancestor with Calliophis gracilis than with Hemibungarus calligaster or any of the northern tropical/subtropical Asian coral snakes .They established a new genus, Sinomicrurus, that includes species of Asian coral snakes sharing a more recent common ancestor with Sinomicrurus macclellandi than with the New World coral snakes. The five species included in the genus Sinomicrurus, which occurs in India, Burma, Laos, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Japan, are S. hatori, S. japonicus, S. kelloggi, S. macclellandi, and S. sauteri.
Slowinski et al. note that their phylogenetic results have important implications with respect to the historical biogeography of coral snakes. If the Asian coral snakes are paraphyletic with respect to the New World coral snakes, this implies that the distribution of the ancestor of Sinomicrurus and New World coral snakes was Asian. The ancestor of the New World coral snakes likely reached the Americas via the Bering Land Bridge. (a path that has been proposed as well for the ancestors of the New World natricine and colubrine snakes)