Coral Snake Vs Corn Snake

Coral Snake Vs Corn Snake: Best 5 Differences To Tell Them Apart!

Coral snakes are one of the prettiest snakes of America. They are colorful and glossy, and very gentle in general. However, they are often confused with corn snakes though they belong to different families of serpents and are not supposed to look or behave in a similar manner.

In order to tell them apart, a coral snake vs corn snake comparison is crucial. The main reason behind this is that one of the snakes in question is a venomous one and can even cause fatality in humans. Let’s not waste even a second more and jump right into the root of the confusion.

Corn Snake Vs Coral Snake: So Similar, You Have To Look Twice!

The number one similarity between corn and coral snakes are the colors on their body. They both have red, white and black on them. Both the snakes are bright at first glance and are often mistaken one for another. Also, both the critters are gentle but may bite when perturbed.

Coral snakes and corn snakes, both can be found in the wilderness of America, occupying grasslands, forests, and leaf litters. Also, both the snakes are oviparous as they lay eggs. Coral snakes are known to be the only venomous snake in the US that lay eggs. These are some of the main culprits that make distinguishing between the two snakes so difficult.

Although coral snakes and corn snakes may look similar at first sight, upon close observation you will see a number of differences. Let’s explore deeper to solve the conundrum.

Which Snake Families Are Coral Snake And Corn Snake Coming From?

Elapidae Snakes Family

Coral snakes belong to a vast family of snakes known as the Elapidae, and there are about a hundred different species of coral snakes! Unbelievable, right? They are all divided into 5 different genera– 3 are Old World, whereas the remaining 2 are New World species.

The 3 Old World genera of coral snakes have the following names– Calliophis, Sinomicrurus, and Hemibungarus. They hold about 16 species in their umbrella and most of them are found in Asia. The 2 New World genera, consisting of about 65 different species, have found their home largely in South and Central America. The 2 genera are known as Micruroides and Micrurus.

Now let’s shed some light on corn snakes. Corn snakes have only 3 species and they all belong to only one genus by the name Pantherophis. Pantherophis is a Greek word which basically means “snakes that look like panthers”. Corn snakes belong to the family Colubridae.

The three species of corn snakes are known as: the common corn snake (P.guttatus), the Great Plains rat snake (P. emoryi), and Slowinski’s corn snake (P. slowinskii). One attractive aspect about corn snakes is that, though there are not many species, there are hundreds of morphs of corn snakes produced by inbreeding or gene mutation in controlled environments. They are each more gorgeous than the other and some of them resemble coral snakes closely.

What Is The Color Of Coral Snake And Corn Snake?

Of course there are plenty of similarities between coral snakes and corn snakes. However, you will find distinct differences in patterns, shadings, body length and body shape.

Coral Snake

Coral Snake

The Old World coral snakes have a lot of different colors. They could have red, black and white crossbands which is a signature look for coral snakes. They could also be gray or brown overall, with longitudinal stripes of different colors. However, the New world coral snakes have the classic appearance with crossbands of red, black and white (or yellow) all over their body.

Take the Old World species Bibron’s coral snakes for instance (C. bibroni), found largely in South Asia, which have a red body with black crossbands. On the other hand, take the Banded Malaysian coral snake (C.intestinalis) that looks black overall, with white rope-like stripes. However, the MacClelland’s coral snakes (S. macclelandi) are completely brown in color.

On the other hand, almost all the New World species have a classic red, black and white banded look, and just by looking at one you will know it is a coral snake. However, coral snakes are often confused with milk snakes which also have a banded appearance of similar colors. But there is a distinct difference between the two that you can know more about here.

Head: Coral snakes usually have a black head and snout. There may be red or yellow head and neck bands. However, the Old World species have different colors on their heads. Blue Malaysian coral snakes have a red-colored head, whereas the Spotted coral snakes have a blue head with rope-like marks. MacClelland’s corn snakes have a black snout with a bright white neck band, and this trait can also be found in Taiwan coral snakes of Sinomicrurus genus.

Belly: Underbelly region of coral snakes is usually marked with horizontal white lines, and the color is usually similar to the dorsal region. However, in the MacClelland’s coral snake, though the upper part is brown, the ventral part is creamy white in appearance.

Corn Snake

Corn Snake

The common corn snakes have all the colors that are present in a classic coral snake– red, yellow (white) and black. This is one of the biggest reasons why these two are often confused. However, corn snakes are largely orange and brown. Their whole body is a light brown adorned with bright orange saddles. Saddles are hourglass shaped and look different than crossbands.

The saddles of corn snakes are in turn edged with a thin black outline. While coral snakes have a glossy appearance, the body of corn snakes are more scaly and slightly rougher.

On the other hand, the other two species of corn snakes look quite different to the common corn snakes. Slowinski’s corn snakes are grayish-white overall with maroon, almost diamond-shaped blotches all over their body. The Great Plains rat snakes look a lot like Slowinki’s corn snake in the sense that they have a purplish body with white saddles. They do not have orange in them.

Corn snakes have some wonderful morphs that are bred in captivity. Gene mutation results in albinism, amelanism or axanthism that cause the morphs to have colors ranging between black, white, red, purple, pink, and yellow. People go to any length to purchase the morphs that are absolutely adorable. There are scaleless morphs too which are the most expensive ones.

  • Head: Head of the classic corn snakes are orange with a little whitish at the snout. Slowinski’s corn snakes have maroon ornate patterns on their heads. The Great Plains rat snakes have spearhead-shaped white markings on their purplish-gray foreheads.
  • Belly: One surefire way to identify corn snakes is to look for the characteristic checkerboard pattern on their belly that is formed by black and white crisscrosses. The checkerboard pattern produces squares that are orange and white in color, resembling corn kernels. This is how the snake got its name! The squares may have different colors across species and morphs.

What Is The Size Of Coral Snake And Corn Snake?

Coral snakes are tiny snakes but their bodies are flatter than those of corn snakes. Females grow longer than males with their body lengths reaching up to 3 feet. Males could be around 2 feet only. Baby coral snakes could grow anywhere between 6 and 8 inches long.

On the other hand, corn snakes are longer and more slender in appearance. They can grow within the range of 2 to 6 feet, a whopping 3 feet longer than coral snakes. Babies of corn snakes are longer too, and could measure between 8 and 12 inches after hatching.

Where Do Coral Snake And Corn Snake Live?

Coral Snake: Almost all Old World species of coral snakes are from the Asian continent. India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines are some of the countries where coral snakes of the Calliophis, Hemibungarus and Sinomicrurus genus have found their home.

Coral Snake Living Place

However, the New World species of coral snakes are mostly found in Central and South America. Some, like the Arizona coral snakes, could be found in Arizona, Carolina, Louisiana, Texas, and Florida, US. The South American countries that nurture the largest population of coral snakes are Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia and Brazil, among many other places. The snakes thrive in the dry and desert conditions that persist in these countries.

Coral snakes in South America inhabit pine and scrub woodlands and the sand dunes that make up most of the landscape. They do not stay near water that much but sometimes stay in flatwoods that experience seasonal flooding. Open grounds are a place they really like.

Corn Snake: The southeastern parts of the United States witness the shelter of corn snakes. Unlike coral snakes, none of the species of corn snakes have originated in Asia. From New Jersey all the way to Florida, these snakes are spotted either basking or wriggling around.

Corn Snake Living Place

Open places like fields, forest edges and clearings, and flatwoods are places that they love to inhabit or forage in. They can also survive on highlands that are located at elevations above 6000 feet! They are usually terrestrial when they are young, but become more adventurous as they mature, trying out trees, cliffs and other highlands to test their own endurance.

They are not particularly scared of humans and are often found in granaries and outbuildings. This is one of the reasons why they are also called rat snakes because they prey on the rodents frequenting granaries. During hot summer months, they stay hidden within rock crevices but when it gets a little cooler, come out to explore. Winter months witness sluggish corn snakes.

How Do Coral Snake And Corn Snake Hunt In The Wild?

Corn snakes are non-venomous, as most snakes are in the Colubridae family. They do not have fangs or any venom sac in their mouth. They only have small, slightly pointed, evenly-sized teeth in their mouth, called aglyphous dentition, that helps them to seize their prey. While it is holding onto the prey, it forms coils around the poor animal’s body to suffocate it to fatality. This method of subduing prey is called constriction. Constriction may also cause cardiac arrest.

In order to protect itself from predators, corn snakes are infamous for beating their tail against a rough or dry surface to produce the same sound that rattlesnakes make with their tail. This makes predators think that the venomous rattlesnakes are nearby and they retreat. Corn snakes look like the venomous copperheads too and they take advantage of this similarity.

Coral snakes, on the other hand, are venomous elapids. They have a pair of short, hollow fangs on their upper jaw that are affixed and not retractable. There are grooves present at the base of the fangs through which venom enters from the venom sac, channels through the hollow parts of the fangs, right into the tissues of the victim.

Since the fangs are short, it takes a lot of time for the venom to pass through, so coral snakes keep chewing on the tissues of the prey until a sufficient amount of the venom has been injected to subdue the prey successfully. Coral snake’s venom is potent enough to cause human fatality if not immediately treated. In the US, around 15 to 20 coral snake bites are reported each year.

Coral snakes are highly elusive by nature and spend most of the daylight hours burrowing or hiding underneath leaf litter. They come out only when it rains. Some species of the Micrurus genus are semi-aquatic, spending quality time in slow-moving water bodies. It is for this elusive nature that locating their presence becomes quite difficult. Thus they pose a lot of danger.

At-A-Glance Different Chart Of Coral Snake Vs Corn Snake

Here are all the differences in a chart for your convenience.

Features Coral Snake Corn Snake
Family Family:Elapidae, 5 Genera, Around 100 Species Family Colubridae, 1 Genus, 3 Species, Hundreds Of Morphs
Color New World Species Have Red, Black And White Crossbands.

O.W Species Look Like N.W Species, Or Could Be Black And Brown Overall

Common Corn Snakes Are Orange And Red

The Other Species Have Purple And Grayish Tones, With White And Maroon Hourglass Saddles

Head Black, Red And Blue With Different Different Colored Bands Orange Heads Usually With White Spearhead Markings
Belly Horizontal Lines Checkerboard Pattern
Size Between 2 And 3 Feet Between 2 And 6 Feet
Range Asia, Central And South America Southeastern And Central Parts Of The United States
Hunting Tactics Venom, Fangs Constriction

A Snippet Of Corn Snake Guide

Corn snakes are non-venomous and quite docile by nature so many people adopt them and take care of them at their home. It is not a big deal to take care of corn snakes. They are not very fussy and get accustomed to eating frozen thawed rodents right after they hatch.

The first question that comes in people’s mind while adopting or purchasing a corn snake is where and how should a corn snake be housed. According to Reptilefiles, the terrarium or tank size can be measured using this formula: (0.7 x snake length) x (0.5 x snake length). The height should be at least 2 feet. In short, terrarium size should be such that the snake can stretch its body easily to its full length and can move about from one spot to another.

Let’s not forget that snakes are cold-blooded creatures and their body temperature fluctuates with the surrounding temperature. Therefore, always try to provide an environment that allows the snake to metabolize to its fullest potential. The basking spot of the terrarium should be at 90°F, and the cooling spot must be between 75 and 82°F. Humidity should be between 65 and 75%. Humidifier (fogger/mister) could be installed, or sphagnum moss could be used.

How Will I Keep Venomous Snakes Away From My House?

Prevention is always better than cure. Keep your garden areas and house entrance areas as neat and tidy as possible. Uneaten food from bird feeders attract rodents and myriads of invertebrates, which further invite snakes in. Also, lead litters or mulch should be removed.

There are some humane and effective ways to keep snakes away. There is a plant called the “snake plant” the leaves of which resemble a snake’s body and have been known to scare snakes away. Also cacti, clove, lemon and basil plants help to deter snakes.


Coral snake vs corn snake– is a much needed comparison since the two snakes look quite similar. They have similar colors on their bodies consisting of orange, red, yellow, black and white hues. They both have crossbands or saddles that make it tough to tell them apart.

However, upon close inspection, you will see the difference. Coral snake’s crossbands are much more distinct than those of corn snakes. Besides, corn snakes could grow as long as 6 feet, whereas corals grow up to 3 feet on average. A close observation points out the nuances.

Hello snake lovers! I’m David Mifsud and Snake Insider is my latest project with a vision of spreading reptile awareness to every single netizen. I’ll be introducing some of the most unexplored territories in the world of snakes to broaden the horizon of knowledge for the readers. My personal motto is to get as close to the snakes in nature without disrupting the balance and gather information as well as habitation patterns. It can be later on utilized in order to build a safe and healthy environment for every species of snakes. So stick around with us and I’m sure we won’t disappoint you!

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