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Laticauda frontalis 

Scope: Global
Language: English
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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Reptilia Squamata Elapidae

Scientific Name: Laticauda frontalis (De Vis, 1905)
Common Name(s):
English Yellow-lipped Sea Snake
Synonym(s):
Platurus frontalis De Vis, 1905
Taxonomic Notes: Previously subsumed under the specific name L. colubrina, but it has been shown that these are sibling species which are reproductively isolated from each other (Shine et al. 2002).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2010
Date Assessed: 2009-02-15
Assessor(s): Lane, A. & Guinea, M.
Reviewer(s): Livingstone, S.R., Elfes, C.T., Polidoro, B.A. & Carpenter, K.E. (Global Marine Species Assessment Coordinating Team)
Justification:
This species is restricted to Vanuatu and has an extent of occurrence of less than 15,000 km². It is a naturally uncommon species and is found in coral reef habitats. This species is threatened by habitat loss from coastal development and sea level rise throughout its range, especially as it needs to lay its eggs on land. It is listed as Near Threatened as it almost qualifies for a threatened listing under criterion B1ab(iii). Additional information on fragmentation of populations or the scale of threats to determine the number of locations may qualify this species for a higher threat category.

 

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species is endemic to Vanuatu where it has been documented on the islands of Efate and Espiritu Santo (Cogger and Heatwole 2006), which has an extent of occurrence of less than 15,000 km². Two individuals have also been identified in the Loyalty Islands of New Caledonia (Cogger et al. 2007) though there is no evidence of a breeding population at this location and the individuals may have been migrants or vagrants (A. Lane pers. comm. 2009).
Countries occurrence:
Native:
Vanuatu
Vagrant:
New Caledonia
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Native:
Pacific – western central
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):2Lower depth limit (metres):20
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:There is no known population information for this species. It is less common and less terrestrial than L. colubrina.

Populations of L. frontalis display very limited genetic diversity (Lane 2009).
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:L. frontalis feeds exclusively on eels. It is a smaller, sister species of L. colubrina, and is less common with a smaller range. Sea snakes of the family Laticauda are amphibious to some degree, leaving the water regularly. Oviparous females deposit their eggs on land (Guinea 1994). No natural nest sites have been located for this species. They inhabit shallow tropical seas and coral reefs.

This species occurs in sympatry and syntopy with L. colubrina and can be found inside small rock crevices and mangrove trees when on land.  Females reach reproductive maturity at greater than 50 cm, males at greater than 40 cm (Shine et al. 2002).
Systems:Terrestrial; Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Major threats include anthropogenic disturbances such as coastal development and habitat destruction, especially as this species lays it eggs on land.

Amphibious Laticaudine sea kraits predominantly utilize the inter-tidal region whilst on land and require suitable cover (such as beach rocks) 1-4 meters from the waters edge (Saint Girons 1964, Ineich and LaBoute 2002, A. Lane pers. comm). 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 to Laticaudine sea kraits. 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).

Populations of Laticauda spp. are typically too small to be commercially useful.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: There are no species specific conservation measures for this species. It is important that conservation actions for the genus Laticauda take into account both their marine and terrestrial habitat requirements.

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

Citation: Lane, A. & Guinea, M. 2010. Laticauda frontalis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T176736A7293312. . Downloaded on 15 October 2018.
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