Laticauda is a genus of snakes from the subfamily Hydrophiinae. Laticauda species are the least adapted to sea life of all the members of Hydrophiinae; they retain the wide ventral scales typical of terrestrial snakes and have poorly developed tail fins. They are adapted to living on land and in shallow seas.
A sea krait can grow to 1.5 meters long.
Laticauda species are found throughout the south and southeast Asian islands spreading from India in the west, north as far as Japan, and southeast to Fiji. They are mostly found in coastal waters.
Laticauda species are often active at night, which is when they prefer to hunt. Though they possess highly toxic venom, Laticauda snakes are usually shy and reclusive, and in New Caledonia, where they are called tricot rayé ("stripey sweater"), children play with them. Bites are extremely rare, but must be treated immediately. Black-banded sea kraits, numbering in their hundreds, form hunting alliances with yellow goatfish and bluefin trevally, flushing potential prey from narrow crannies in a reef the same way some moray eels do.
Laticauda females are oviparous, and they return to land to mate and lay eggs. Several males will form a mating ball around the female, twitching their bodies in what is termed 'caudocephalic waves'. Though these animals can occur in high densities in suitable locations, nests of eggs are very rarely encountered, suggesting specific nesting conditions need to be met.
Species and taxonomy
- Laticauda colubrina (Schneider, 1799) - yellow-lipped sea krait
- Laticauda crockeri Slevin, 1934 - Crocker's sea snake
- Laticauda frontalis (De Vis, 1905)
- Laticauda guineai Heatwole, Busack & Cogger, 2005 - Guinea's sea krait
- Laticauda laticaudata (Linnaeus, 1758) - blue-lipped sea krait
- Laticauda saintgironsi Cogger & Heatwole, 2006 - Saint Girons' sea krait
- Laticauda schistorhynchus (Guenther, 1874) - katuali or Niue sea krait
- Laticauda semifasciata (Reinwardt in Schlegel, 1837) - black-banded sea krait
Sea snakes have tick parasites with occasionally heavy infestations.
- Activity Patterns of Yellow-Lipped Sea Kraits (Laticauda colubrina) on a Fijian Island
- Kindersley, Dorling (2001,2005). Animal. New York City: DK Publishing. ISBN 0-7894-7764-5.
- Notes du Centre d'études biologiques de Chizé (UPR1934 CNRS), CNRS DR15 - La Lettre de la Délégation n°202.
- Heatwole, H., S. Busack & H. Cogger (2005) Geographic variation in sea kraits of the Laticauda colubrina complex (Serpentes: Elapidae: Hydrophiinae: Laticaudini). Herpetological Monographs 19, 1-136.
- Cogger, H.G. & H.F. Heatwole (2006) Laticauda frontalis (de Vis, 1905) and Laticauda saintgironsi n.sp. from Vanuato and New Caledonia (Serpentes: Elapidae: Laticaudinae)- a new lineage of sea kraits? Records of the Australian Museum 58, 245-256
- Kharin, V.E. & V.P. Czeblukov (2006) A new revision of the sea kraits of family Laticaudidae Cope, 1879 (Serpentes: Colubroidea). Russian Journal of Herpetology 13, 227-241.
- Clark M & S Oakley (2011) http://tracc-borneo.org/2011/03/sea-snake-parasites-1/, referenced May 2011.