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Phylum Chordata > Subphylum Vertebrata > Class Reptilia > shore snakes
Yellow-lipped sea krait
Laticauda colubrina
Family Elapidae
updated Oct 2019

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.

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

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

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

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

Sisters Island, Dec 03

These snakes are curious but will not
bite if not provoked (that's my bootie!)
Pulau Semakau, Sep 05

Yellow-lipped sea kraits on Singapore shores
On wildsingapore flickr

Other sightings on Singapore shores

Sisters Island, May 12
Photos shared by Geraldine Lee on facebook.
Sisters Island, Jan 11
Photo shared by LIana Tang on facebook.

Pulau Tekukor, Nov 20
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on facebook.

Sisters Island, Feb 11

Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on his blog.

Kusu Island, Apr 17
Photos shared by Toh Chay Hoon on facebook.

Kusu Island, Jan 24

About 40-45cm long. Photo shared by Kelvin Yong on facebook.

Terumbu Benban, Jun 14
Photos shared by Loh Kok Sheng on his blog.

Pulau Salu, Jun 10
Photo shared by James Koh on flickr.

Filmed on Pulau Hantu on 12 Apr 09

Yellow Lipped Sea Krait @ Pulau Hantu 12Apr2009 from BeachBum on Vimeo.

Filmed on Pulau Semakau on 6 Nov 09

Yellow-Lipped Sea Krait @ Semakau 06Nov2009 from BeachBum on Vimeo.



  • Lim, Kelvin K. P. & Francis L K Lim, 1992. A Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of SingaporeSingapore Science Centre. 160 pp.
  • 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.
  • Chou, L. M., 1998. A Guide to the Coral Reef Life of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre. 128 pages.
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