Yellow-Lipped Sea Krait Fact File
Yellow-lipped sea kraits have a flattened, paddle-shaped tail which helps to propel them through the water. This allows them to spend most of their life at sea.
Their body is covered with smooth, scales.
The body is patterned with bands of black and bluish-grey. On the underside they are white or cream in color.
Their upper lip is colored yellow giving them their name. This sits on the mostly black head.
Along the edge of the tail is another U-shaped yellow marking.
An average yellow-lipped sea krait will measure between 1 and 2m (3.25-6.5ft). Females tend to be much larger than males. Females will weigh 1.8kg (3.9lbs) compared to 0.6kg (1.3lbs) for the males. This size difference is thought to be a result of females eating larger foods.
The yellow-lipped sea krait is a carnivore. They almost exclusively feed on eels. Females tend to target larger conger eels while the males focus on the smaller moray eels. Some small bony fish have also been recorded as being consumed by this species.
These animals posses a venom which can be used to subdue prey. After biting and injecting their neurotoxic venom it goes to work on the diaphragm of the eel affecting its breathing.
After eating their swimming ability is affected and they will go to land to digest their food.
Captive 7 years
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Yellow-lipped sea kraits can found in the waters of South and South East Asia. They can be found around the coastline of American Samoa, Cambodia, China ,Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Federated States of Micronesia, Myanmar, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tonga, Vanuatu and Viet Nam.
Vagrant individuals have been recorded from Australia and New Zealand but they are not thought to breed in either of these countries. Unconfirmed reports of the species also exist from the coast of Central America.
They are the most widespread species of the Laticauda genus.
Yellow-lipped sea kraits make their home at sea as the name suggests. They are found in warm, tropical waters. These snakes are primarily found on shallow, coral reefs where their food source of eels is found.
They come to land on rocky islets to complete their reproduction and shed their skin. These animals also make use of wetlands.
The breeding season is variable across their range. In Fiji and Sabah they will breed from September to December.
Males will find a female by swimming along the coastline and sensing the pheromonal cues left by her as she went on to land. He will then track her and commence mating.
The eggs are deposited at land under leaf litter. Clutch size is variable across their range being anywhere between four and twenty eggs.
At hatching the eggs resemble smaller versions of the adults. In Fiji and Sabah the eggs hatch in June and August.
Sexual maturity is reached between 1.5 and 2 years old.
In the water yellow-lipped sea kraits use their paddle like tail to propel them through the water. On land they use the S-shaped serpentine motion seen in many desert species of snake.
Some studies have concluded that this species spends as much as 50% of its life on the land.
Most of their hunting takes place in shallow water with a depth of less than 15m (49ft). They have a range of adaptations helping them to dive for up to an hour at a time.
Most of their activity takes place at dusk or at night. During the day they shelter in rock crevices, bushes or under debris. They will periodically move in to the sun to bask and thermoregulate.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the yellow-lipped sea krait include sea eagles, sharks and crabs.
To avoid predation they will hide on land after feeding while their swimming ability is impaired. Their tail is thought to resemble a head. This can trick predators in to leaving them alone as they have a venomous bite which scares many predators away.
Humans present a number of threats to the yellow-lipped sea krait. The main threat is coastal development and the habitat destruction which this can lead to. They are attracted to light and this can see them move towards danger as they are attracted to the lights of developments.
In some parts of their range they are collected for food. They are also collected for medical purposes.
Yellow-lipped sea kraits are also known as the banded sea krait.
By Craig D – https://www.flickr.com/photos/craigd/3903394880/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7845094
By Elias Levy – https://www.flickr.com/photos/elevy/6997580101/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20103696
By Jens Petersen – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4730090
By Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE – Banded Sea Krait (Laticauda colubrina), CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40774273
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Encyclopedia Britannica. 2021. sea snake | Types, Habitat, & Facts. [online] Available at: <https://www.britannica.com/animal/sea-snake#ref837098> [Accessed 7 February 2021].
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