Black-banded sea krait

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Black-banded sea krait
Laticauda semifasciata.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Hydrophiidae or Elapidae
Genus: Laticauda
Species: L. semifasciata
Binomial name
Laticauda semifasciata
(Reinwardt in Schlegel, 1837)

Platurus semifasciatus Reinwardt in Schlegel, 1837
Pseudolaticauda semifasciata (Reinwardt in Schlegel, 1837)

The black-banded sea krait, or Chinese sea snake (Laticauda semifasciata), known in Japan as erabu umi hebi (ja:エラブウミヘビ), and Okinawa as the irabu, is a member of the Laticauda genus of sea snakes. It is found in most of the warm waters of the western Pacific Ocean.

This high snake frequents coral reef areas. It has a short head, thick trunk, and no easily discernible neck. The tail is simply extended skin, spread wide like a fin, and unsupported by any projection. The stomach is comparatively wide. Massing together near the shore, they breed between narrow cracks in the reef and in caves. It is a nocturnal snake, rarely seen during the day. It requires oxygen to breathe, so breaks the surface at least once every six hours.

It is too slow to catch fish in a straight chase, so it hunts for fish hiding in the coral. Alternately, gathering in the hundreds, black-banded sea kraits 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.[2][3] The bite is highly venomous and paralyzes the prey. Females lay their eggs on land.

Generally, the species is found in Fiji, southern Japan and Singapore. Their venom is ten times stronger than that of a cobra, making them extremely dangerous. Fortunately, this snake does not bite humans unless it feels threatened.

The erabu snake is a winter staple in southern Japan, where it is believed to replenish a female's womanhood. Irabu soup irabu-jiru (ja:イラブー汁)[4] is said to taste like miso and a bit like tuna. This soup was a part of the royal court cuisine of Ryukyu Kingdom; it is thought to have analeptic properties.

Life history[edit]

Male and female snakes reach sexual maturity at snout-vent lengths of 70 and 80 cm, respectively. Females lay 3–7 eggs that hatch after 4–5 months.[5] It can reach 170 cm in total length.[6]


  1. ^ Lane, A. & Gatus, J. (2010). "Laticauda semifasciata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 6 October 2012. 
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  5. ^ Tu, M. C.; M. C. Tu, S. C. Fong and K. Y. Lue (1990). "Reproductive biology of the sea snake, Laticauda semifasciata, in Taiwan". Journal of Herpetology 24 (2): 119–126. doi:10.2307/1564218. JSTOR 1564218. 
  6. ^ Hans Breuer & William Christopher Murphy (2009–2010). "Pseudolaticauda semifasciata". Snakes of Taiwan. Retrieved 7 October 2012.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  • Schlegel, Hermann (1837). Essai sur la Physionomie des Serpens, Volume 1. Amsterdam: Schonekat. p. 516.