Laticauda colubrina

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Laticauda colubrina
Banded Sea Krait (Laticauda colubrina) (14641328165).jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Subfamily: Laticaudinae
Genus: Laticauda
Species: L. colubrina
Binomial name
Laticauda colubrina
(Schneider, 1799)
Distribution of Laticauda colubrina.svg
  • Hydrus colubrinus
    Schneider, 1799
  • Platurus colubrinus
    Wagler, 1830
  • Hydrophis colubrinus
    Schlegel, 1837
  • Laticauda colubrina
    Stejneger, 1907

Laticauda colubrina, commonly known as the banded sea krait, colubrine sea krait, or yellow-lipped sea krait, is a species of venomous sea snake found in tropical Indo-Pacific oceanic waters. The snake has distinctive black stripes and a yellow snout, with a paddle-like tail for use in swimming.

The banded sea krait spends much of its time underwater in order to hunt, but returns to land to digest, rest, and reproduce. It has very potent neurotoxic venom, which it uses to prey on eels and small fish. Because of their affinity to land, banded sea kraits often encounters humans, but the snakes are not aggressive and only attack in self-defense.


The yellow snout and paddle-like tail of L. colubrina, Zamboanguita, Philippines
The yellow snout and paddle-like tail of L. colubrina, Zamboanguita, Philippines
See snake scales for terms used

Ventrals are large (wide), one-third to more than half the width of the body; nostrils are lateral; nasals are separated by internasals; 21–25 longitudinal rows of imbricate dorsal scales are found at midbody; an azygous prefrontal shield is usually present; and the rostral is undivided.

The body is subcylindrical, only slightly laterally compressed. The rostral is higher than broad; an azygous shield separates the prefrontals, but sometimes is absent; the frontal is considerably longer than its distance from the end of the snout; one preocular and two postoculars are present; there are 7–8 supralabials, the 3rd–4th touching the eye; temporals are 1+2; five infralabials are in contact with the genials, both pairs of which are usually well developed and in contact with one another, the anterior pair smaller than the posterior; a double series of elongated scales, the inner series the larger, occur at the oral margin. Dorsal scales are in 21–23 rows (rarely 25). Ventrals number 213 to 245, and are about four times as wide as long. Subcaudals in males number 37–47, and in females 29–35.[3]

Total length: males 875 mm (34.4 in), females 1,420 mm (56 in); tail length: males 130 mm (5.1 in), females 145 mm (5.7 in).

In colour these snakes are light or dark bluish grey above, yellowish below, with black rings more or less of uniform width throughout or narrowing on the belly (some of them interrupted below). The upper lip is yellow, and the snout is yellow, the colour extending backward on each side of the head above the eye as far as the temporal shields, leaving a dark bar in between.The rest of the head is black.


Banded sea kraits when collected near the tip of Borneo had heavy tick infections.[4]

Range and habitat[edit]

The banded sea krait is widespread throughout the eastern Indian Ocean and Western Pacific. It can be found from the eastern coast of India, along the coast of the Bay of Bengal in Bangladesh, Myanmar and other parts of Southeast Asia, to the Malay Archipelago and to some parts of southern China, Taiwan, and the Ryukyu Islands of Japan. The species is also common on Fiji and other Pacific islands within its range. Vagrant individuals have been recorded in Australia, New Caledonia, and New Zealand.[1]


The venom of the banded sea krait is a very powerful neurotoxic protein, with a LD50 in rodents of about 0.44 mg per kilogram of body weight.[5] The venom is an α-neurotoxin that disrupts synapses by competing with acetylcholine for receptors on the postsynaptic membrane, similar to erabutoxins and α-bungarotoxins.[6]

Some varieties of eels, which are a primary food source for sea kraits, may have coevolved resistance to banded sea krait venom.[7] Gymnothorax moray eels taken from the Caribbean, where the banded sea krait is not present, died after injection with doses as small as 0.1 mg/kg body weight, but Gymnothorax individuals taken from New Guinea, where banded sea kraits are endemic, were able to tolerate doses as large as 75 mg/kg without severe injury.[8]


Banded sea krait eating a moray eel

Banded sea kraits spend time both on land and in water. When hunting, sea kraits frequently head into deep water far away from land, but return to small islands in order to digest, shed skin, and reproduce. Individual kraits return to their specific home islands, exhibiting philopatry. A study found that when sea kraits on Fijian islands were relocated to different islands 5.3 km away, all recaptured individuals were found on their home islands in an average of 30.7 days.[9]

Hunting and diet[edit]

Banded sea kraits often hunt alone, but have also been recorded in large numbers in the company of hunting parties of giant trevally and goatfish. This cooperative hunting technique is similar to that of the moray eel, with the kraits flushing out prey from narrow crevices and holes, and the trevally and goatfish feeding on fleeing prey.[10]

While probing crevices with their head, sea kraits are unable to observe approaching predators and could be vulnerable. The snakes can deter predators by fooling them that their tail is the head, because the color and movement of the tail is similar to that of the snake's head. For example, the lateral aspect of tail corresponds to the dorsal view of the head.[11][12]

Kraits primarily feed on varieties of eels, but also eat small fish. Male and female kraits exhibit sexual dimorphism in hunting behavior, as adult females, which are significantly larger than males, prefer to hunt larger conger eels, while adult males hunt smaller moray eels. In addition, females hunt for only one prey item per foraging bout, while males often hunt for multiple items.[13] After hunting, the kraits return to land in order to digest their prey.[9]

Courtship and reproduction[edit]

Multiple banded sea kraits mating

The banded sea krait is oviparious, meaning it lays eggs that develop outside of the body.[1]

Every year during the warmer months of September through December, male banded sea kraits gather on land and in the water around gently sloping areas at high tide. Male kraits prefer to mate with larger female kraits because they produce larger and more offspring.[14]

When a male detects a female snake, it chases the female and begins courtship. Female kraits are much larger and many males will escort and intertwine around a single female. The males then align their bodies with the female and rhythmically contract; the resulting mass of snakes can remain nearly motionless for several days.[14][15] After courtship, the snakes copulate for about an average of two hours.[14]

The female kraits then lay as many as 10 eggs per clutch. The eggs are deposited in crevices where they remain until hatching.[16] These eggs are very rarely found in the wild; only two nests have been definitively reported throughout the entire range of the species.[1]

Interaction with humans[edit]

Irabu-jiru (Japanese: イラブー汁, irabu soup) made from smoked black-banded sea krait

Because banded sea kraits spend much of their time on land, they are often encountered by humans. They are frequently found in the water intake and exhaust pipes of boats.[16] Kraits are also attracted to light and can be negatively distracted by artificial sources of light, including hotels and other buildings, on coasts.[1]

There are fewer recorded bites from this species compared to other venomous species such as cobras and vipers as it is less aggressive and tends to avoid humans.[17] If they do bite, it is usually in self-defense when accidentally grabbed. Most sea snake bites occur when fishermen attempt to untangle the snakes from their fishing nets.[18]

In the Philippines, banded sea kraits are caught for their skin and meat; the meat is smoked and exported for use in Japanese cuisine.[1] The smoked meat of the black-banded sea krait, a related species in the Laticauda genus, is used in Okinawan cuisine to make irabu-jiru (Japanese: イラブー汁, irabu soup).[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Lane, A.; Guinea, M.; Gatus, J.; Lobo, A. (2010). "Laticauda colubrina". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 7 October 2012. 
  2. ^ "Laticauda colubrina ". The Reptile Database.
  3. ^ Smith, M.A. (1943). The Fauna of British India, Ceylon and Burma, Including the Whole of the Indo-Chinese Sub-region. Reptilia and Amphibia, Vol. III.—Serpentes. London: Secretary of State for India. (Taylor and Francis, printers). p. 443. 
  4. ^ Clark, M.; Oakley, S. (2011-03-08). "Sea snake parasites - 1". Tropical Research and Conservation Centre. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2016-08-20. 
  5. ^ Kundu, Pritha; Venkitachalam, Srikant; Vidya, T. N. C. (2015-08-18). "Why so toxic?". Resonance. 20 (7): 617–627. doi:10.1007/s12045-015-0220-5. ISSN 0971-8044. 
  6. ^ Sato, S.; Yoshida, H.; Abe, H.; Tamiya, N. (1969-10-01). "Properties and biosynthesis of a neurotoxic protein of the venoms of sea snakes Laticauda laticaudata and Laticauda colubrina". Biochemical Journal. 115 (1): 85–90. doi:10.1042/bj1150085. ISSN 0264-6021. PMC 1185071free to read. PMID 5346371. 
  7. ^ Heatwole, Harold; Poran, Naomie S. (1995-01-01). "Resistances of Sympatric and Allopatric Eels to Sea Snake Venoms". Copeia. 1995 (1): 136–147. doi:10.2307/1446808. JSTOR 1446808. 
  8. ^ Heatwole, Harold; Powell, Judy (1998-05-08). "Resistance of eels (Gymnothorax) to the venom of sea kraits (Laticauda colubrina): a test of coevolution". Toxicon. 36 (4): 619–625. doi:10.1016/S0041-0101(97)00081-0. PMID 9643474. 
  9. ^ a b Shetty, Sohan; Shine, Richard (2002-01-01). "Philopatry and Homing Behavior of Sea Snakes (Laticauda colubrina) from Two Adjacent Islands in Fiji". Conservation Biology. 16 (5): 1422–1426. doi:10.1046/j.1523-1739.2002.00515.x. JSTOR 3095337. 
  10. ^ "BBC Nature – Banded sea krait videos, news and facts". Archived from the original on 2016-07-31. Retrieved 2016-06-18. 
  11. ^ Rasmussen, A.R.; Elmberg, J. (2009). "'Head for my tail': A new hypothesis to explain how venomous sea snakes avoid becoming prey". Marine Ecology. 30 (4): 385–390. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0485.2009.00318.x. 
  12. ^ "Sea snake's two-headed illusion". BBC News. 6 August 2009. Retrieved 7 October 2012. 
  13. ^ Shetty, S.; Shine, R. (2002-02-01). "Sexual divergence in diets and morphology in Fijian sea snakes Laticauda colubrina (Laticaudinae)". Austral Ecology. 27 (1): 77–84. doi:10.1046/j.1442-9993.2002.01161.x. ISSN 1442-9993. 
  14. ^ a b c Shetty, Sohan; Shine, Richard (2002-01-01). "Activity Patterns of Yellow-Lipped Sea Kraits (Laticauda colubrina) on a Fijian Island". Copeia. 2002 (1): 77–85. doi:10.1643/0045-8511(2002)002[0077:apoyls];2. JSTOR 1447926. 
  15. ^ Shetty, Sohan; Shine, Richard (2002-01-01). "The Mating System of Yellow-Lipped Sea Kraits (Laticauda colubrina: Laticaudidae)". Herpetologica. 58 (2): 170–180. doi:10.1655/0018-0831(2002)058[0170:tmsoys];2. JSTOR 3893192. 
  16. ^ a b Guinea, Michael L. (1994). "Sea snakes of Fiji and Niue". In Gopalakrishnakone, Ponnampalam. Sea snake toxicology. Singapore Univ. Press. pp. 212–233. ISBN 9971691930. 
  17. ^ "Laticauda colubrina Colubrine or yellow-lipped sea krait". Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. 
  18. ^ Karleskint, George; Small, James; Turner, Richard (2009). "Introduction to Marine Biology". Cengage Learning. p. 307. ISBN 978-0-495-56197-2. 
  19. ^ "Okinawa Gourmet Guide : Sea snake soup (Irabu-jiru) | Website of Okinawa Sightseeing information Okinawa2Go!". Retrieved 2016-07-17. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Boulenger, G.A. 1896. Catalogue of the Snakes in the British Museum (Natural History). Volume III., Containing the Colubridæ (Opisthoglyphæ and Proteroglyphæ) … London: Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History). (Taylor and Francis, printers). xiv + 727 pp. + Plates I-XXV. (Platurus colubrinus, pp. 308–309).
  • Das, I. 2002. A Photographic Guide to Snakes and other Reptiles of India. Sanibel Island, Florida: Ralph Curtis Books. 144 pp. ISBN 0-88359-056-5. (Laticauda colubrina, p. 56).
  • Das, I. 2006. A Photographic Guide to Snakes and other Reptiles of Borneo. Sanibel Island, Florida: Ralph Curtis Books. 144 pp. ISBN 0-88359-061-1. (Laticauda colubrina, p. 69).
  • Frith, C.B. (1974). "Second record of the seasnake Laticauda colubrina in Thailand waters". Nat. Hist. Bull. Siam Soc. Bangkok. 25: 209. 
  • Ota, Hidetoshi; Takahashi, Hiroshi; Kamezaki, Naoki (1985). "On specimens of yellow lipped sea krait Laticauda colubrina from the Yaeyama group, Ryūkyū Archipelago". Snake. 17: 156–159. 
  • Pernetta, J.C. (1977). "Observations on the habits and morphology of the sea snake Laticauda colubrina (Schneider) in Fiji". Canadian Journal of Zoology. 55: 1612–1619. doi:10.1139/z77-210. 
  • Schneider JG. 1799. Historiae Amphibiorum naturalis et literariae Fasciculus Primus continens Ranas, Calamitas, Bufones, Salamandras et Hydros. Jena: F. Frommann. xiii + 264 pp. + corrigenda + Plate I. (Hydrus colubrinus, new species, pp. 238–240). (in Latin).
  • Shetty, Sohan; Devi Prasad, K.V. (1996). "Geographic variation in the number of bands in Laticauda colubrina". Hamadryad. 21: 44–45. 
  • Shetty, S.; Shine, R. (2002). "The mating system of yellow-lipped sea kraits (Laticauda colubrina: Laticaudidae)". Herpetologica. 58 (2): 170–180. doi:10.1655/0018-0831(2002)058[0170:tmsoys];2. 
  • Shetty, S.; Shine, R. (2002). "Sexual divergence in diets and morphology in Fijian sea snakes Laticauda colubrina (Laticaudinae)". Australian Ecology. 27: 77–84. 
  • Stejneger, L. 1907. Herpetology of Japan and Adjacent Territory. United States National Museum Bulletin 58. Washington, District of Columbia: Smithsonian Institution. xx + 577 pp. (Laticauda colubrina, new combination, pp. 406–408).
  • Voris, Harold K.; Voris, Helen H. 1999. "Commuting on the tropical tides: the life of the yellow-lipped sea krait Laticauda colubrina ". Reptilia (Great Britain) (6): 23-30.

External links[edit]