Laticauda semifasciata 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Reptilia Squamata Elapidae

Scientific Name: Laticauda semifasciata (Reinwardt in Schlegel, 1837)
Common Name(s):
English Chinese Sea Snake
Platurus semifasciatus Reinwardt in Schlegel, 1837
Pseudolaticauda semifasciata (Reinwardt in Schlegel, 1837)
Taxonomic Notes: This species has also been treated under the genus Pseudolaticauda (the subgeneric name).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2010
Date Assessed: 2009-02-15
Assessor(s): Lane, A. & Gatus, J.
Reviewer(s): Livingstone, S.R., Elfes, C.T., Polidoro, B.A. & Carpenter, K.E. (Global Marine Species Assessment Coordinating Team)
This species population is estimated to have declined over 90% since 1974 due to the harvest for skins and smoked sea snake in the majority of its range in the Philippines, where harvests for sea snake decreased from 450,000 in 1974 to 1,400 individuals in 1981. Due to the collapse of the fishery, this species is no longer extensively collected in the Philippines, although it is likely still harvested in other parts of its range such as in Japan. As there is no current indication of recovery, it is estimated that declines are still occurring. However, a more than 30% decline in the past 15 years (three generation lengths) cannot be determined. This species is therefore listed as Near Threatened as it is probably close to qualifying for a threatened listing under criterion A2b. More research is needed on abundance and population status, as this species may qualify for a threatened category, especially given its shallow-water habitat and current rarity.


Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Known from the Philippines, Taiwan, China, and Japan (Heatwole 1999). There is also a record from of this species from Palu Api in Indonesia.
Countries occurrence:
China; Indonesia; Japan; Philippines; Taiwan, Province of China
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Pacific – northwest; Pacific – western central
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):20
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:This species has been considered common in Japan (Guinea 1994). Very little is known about the population of this species. Numbers in the Philippines are low and it is uncommon due to past harvests for the skin and smoked sea snake trade. The population has not recovered from the collections in the 1970s and it collapsed in the 1980s (Dunson 1974, Bacolod 1983).
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Sea snakes of the genus Laticauda are amphibious to some degree, leaving the water regularly. Oviparous females deposit their eggs on land (Guinea 1994). They inhabit shallow tropical seas and coral reefs. They feed on fish (Yeng Su et al. 2005).

Sub-adult and mature snakes of this species feed mainly on the fish families Emmelichthyidae, Acanthuridae and Pomacentridae (Yeng et al. 2005).

There are accounts of communal egg laying in this species, specifically in a cave on Orchid Island, 64 km southeast of Taiwan (Yeng et al. 2005).
Systems:Terrestrial; Marine
Generation Length (years):5

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This sea snake was intensively harvested in the central Philippines, both for food and skins. Because of large declines in population numbers, and some protection (e.g. Gato Island sea snake sanctuary), collection is now thought to be limited.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Major threats to this species may include anthropogenic disturbances such as coastal development and habitat destruction.

The skin and smoked sea snake trade in the Philippines was historically a very significant threat. The extensive harvest has now stopped since the crash in the population in the 1980s. In 1974 the number of snakes captured was 450,000, and by 1981 it had dropped to 1,454 individuals (Dunson 1975, Bacolod 1983). There is still a smaller harvest for smoked sea snake for the Japanese market (J. Gatus pers. comm. 2009). It is also harvested heavily in the Ryuku Islands (Dunson 1975).

Amphibious Laticaudine sea kraits predominantly utilize the inter-tidal region whilst on land and require suitable cover (such as beach rocks) 1-4 m from the waters edge (Saint Girons 1964, Ineich and LaBoute 2002, A. Lane pers. comm 2009). If suitable habitat in the inter-tidal region is lost due to rising sea levels associated with global warming (Meehl et al. 2005, Bindoff et al. 2007), this is expected to constitute a direct threat. Furthermore, Laticauda spp. have specific oviposition requirements which have been recorded only rarely (Bacolod 1983, M. Guinea pers. comm.). In these instances egg laying was observed in rocky inter-tidal caves, accessible to kraits only at certain tides. If sea level changes prevent access to suitable laying sites, or render these sites unusable, this would also directly threaten the persistence of Laticaudine sea kraits.

This species is strongly associated with coral reefs and the degradation of this habitat is likely to pose a threat to species persistence. Mass coral bleaching occurs in association with episodes of elevated sea surface temperature and results in significant losses of live coral (Hoegh-Guldberg 1999). This reduces habitat complexity, with a consequent decrease in prey abundance (Pratchett et al. 2008) and the loss of refuge sites. Climate change may thus threaten all sea snakes which are coral reef specialists (Francis 2006).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: There are no species-specific conservation measures for this species, but it may occur in marine protected areas. In the Philippines there are two declared sea snake sanctuaries in Gato Island, Cebu and Pulo Laum, Zamboanga (J. Gatus pers. comm. 2009). These parks are dependent on tourism for their protection.

No sea snake species is currently listed by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

It is important that the conservation of Laticaudids takes into account both their marine and terrestrial habitat requirements.

Citation: Lane, A. & Gatus, J. 2010. Laticauda semifasciata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T176721A7290432. . Downloaded on 19 September 2018.
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