snakes text index | photo index
Phylum Chordata > Subphylum Vertebrata > Class Reptilia > shore snakes
Crab-eating water snake
Fordonia leucobalia
Family Homalopsidae
updated Oct 2016

Where seen? Rarely seen, usually in mangroves such as Pasir Ris and Sungei Buloh, often near mud lobster mounds. This snake is nocturnal and is seldom seen during the day.

Features: To about 90cm long. The head is rounded and not distinct from the body, i.e., it has no 'neck', Cylindrical body with smooth scales and a relatively short tail. Colour purplish brown above fading to white underneath. Mildly venomous, it is a gentle snake and will not bite if it is left alone.

What does it eat? It eats mainly hard-shelled crabs, hunting for and capturing them in the crab burrows. It also eats small fishes.

Baby snakes: Mama snake gives birth to live young in litters of 6-15.

Status and threats: The snake is listed as 'Endangered' on the Red List of threatened animals of Singapore.

Pasir Ris Park, Mar 12

Pasir Ris Park, Mar 12

Pasir Ris Park, Mar 12

Crab-eating water snakes on Singapore shores

Photos of Crab-eating water snakes for free download from wildsingapore flickr

Distribution in Singapore on this wildsingapore flickr map

Pasir Ris Park, Jun 08

Photo shared by Ivan Kwan on flickr.

Crab eating snake & Dinner @ Pasir Ris Mangrove - June 2014 from SgBeachBum on Vimeo.

Dr. Bruce Jayne of the University of Cincinnati (Ohio, USA) shot this infra-red video of a captive snake (Fordonia leucobalia) eating a crab (Episesarma versicolor) that was very near the upper size limit of what it could sallow. From start to finish this epic battle took nearly a half an hour! The snake had a body (SVL) length of 59 cm and was 152 grams and the crab was 15.2 grams. This individual was captured and observed in Singapore at the National University of Singapore. This species of snake occurs on the intertidal mud flats and muddy surfaces of the mangroves along the coasts of many Southeast Asian countries where crabs are an abundant resource. This snake uses a unique behavior of pinning the crab with its chin, neck and body before it bites the crab, whereas other snakes capture prey using an open-mouth strike, during which the needle sharp teeth snag soft-bodied prey.

Links References
  • Serin Subara. 23 October 2015. Giant mudskipper preying on crab-eating water snake. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2015: 163
  • Baker, Nick and Kelvin Lim. 2008. Wild Animals of Singapore: A Photographic Guide to Mammals, Reptiles, Amphibians and Freshwater Fishes Vertebrate Study Group, Nature Society (Singapore). 180 pp.
  • Stuebing, Robert B and Robert F. Inger. 1999. A Field Guide to the Snakes of Borneo Natural History Publications (Borneo). 254 pp.
  • Cox, Merel J., Peter Paul van Dijk, Jarujin Nabhitabhata and Kumthorn Thirakhupt. 1998. A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore New Holland. pp 144.
  • Davison, G.W. H. and P. K. L. Ng and Ho Hua Chew, 2008. The Singapore Red Data Book: Threatened plants and animals of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore). 285 pp.
FREE photos of snakes. Make your own badge here.
links | references | about | email Ria
Spot errors? Have a question? Want to share your sightings? email Ria I'll be glad to hear from you!
wildfactsheets website©ria tan 2008