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Phylum Chordata > Subphylum Vertebrata > Class Reptilia > shore snakes
Yellow-lipped sea krait
Laticauda colubrina
Family Elapidae
updated Feb 14

Where seen? This beautiful snake is sometimes seen on our Southern shores especially at night, hunting among reefs and coral rubble. The snake is typically found in shallow seas around coral reefs and rocky shores. Some place them in Family Hydrophiidae.

According to Baker, in Singapore, it is only found on our Southern Islands. It can crawl about on land (not helpless like other sea snakes). It is widely distributed in the Indo-Pacific.


Features: To about 1.4m long. Males are smaller (rarely more than 1m in length) while females are heavier bodied and longer. Bluish-grey with distinct smooth scales and regularly spaced, equal-sized black bands that circle the entire body. Its upper lips are distinctly yellow, thus its common name. Head slightly distinct from the body, but no obvious 'neck'. Its tail is flattened sideways into a paddle-like shape and used like an oar to swim with. At first glance, the tail and the head of this snake look very similar. A study suggests this may help protect the snake from its predators.

Deadly beauty: The snake has a highly toxic venom that can be fatal to humans. But it is a gentle and docile snake with tiny fangs. It will not bite unless provoked. It is best to leave it alone, although it is curious and may investigate you!

How to stay safe: Wear covered shoes and long pants to cover all skin exposed to water. Don't harass, touch or pick up the snake.

Sometimes confused with the harmless Banded file snake (Acrochordus granulatus). Here's how to tell apart banded snakes seen near the coast. It may also be confused with eels. Here's more on how to tell apart sea snakes, eels and eel-like animals.

What does it eat? It eats fishes and fish eggs. Eels are among their favourite prey. It has been seen actively hunting at night on the shore even at low tide, probing the coral rubble crevices for tit bits. It also comes ashore to rest, digest its meal, shed its skin and to mate.

Sea snake babies: These snakes generally breed on coral atolls and rocky islets where they may gather in large groups to do so. The reef flat at Pulau Sudong used to be a well known nesting ground for the snake until it was reclaimed. The mother snake lays 5-9/7-13 eggs, in caves and grottos. The babies look just like their parents.

Status and threats: Our sea snakes are listed as 'Endangered' on the Red List of threatened animals of Singapore. Like other creatures of the intertidal zone, they are affected by human activities such as reclamation and pollution.

Like other snakes, it sticks out its
tongue to sense its surroundings

Sisters Island, Dec 03


Head and tail can look similar
at first glance.
Sisters Island, Nov 03


These snakes are curious but will not
bite if not provoked (that's my bootie!)

Pulau Semakau, Sep 05

Sisters Island, May 09
Photo shared by Marcus Ng on his flickr.

It has a paddle-shaped tail.
Sentosa, Oct 03

Yellow-lipped sea kraits on Singapore shores

Photos for free download from wildsingapore flickr

video clip and more photos of yellow-lipped sea kraits on Singapore shores

Links

References

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