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Laticauda schistorhynchus

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA REPTILIA SQUAMATA ELAPIDAE

Scientific Name: Laticauda schistorhynchus
Species Authority: (Günther, 1874)
Common Name(s):
English Flat-tail Sea Snake
Synonym(s):
Platurus schistorhynchus Günther, 1874
Pseudolaticauda schistorhynchus (Günther, 1874)
Taxonomic Notes: There is some debate as to whether L. schistorynchus is a separate species, or a subspecies of L. semifasciata, due to similarities in venom chemistry (Guinea et al. 1983, Tamiya et al. 1983) and morphology (McCarthy 1986). This is disputed by Cogger and Heatwole (2005).

The Reptile Database treats this species under the genus Pseudolaticauda.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable B1ab(iii); D2 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 has a very restricted range and is known only from Niue, where it has an extent of occurrence estimated to be less than 300 km². As this species needs to reproduce on land, current threats include habitat degradation from coastal development and extreme weather events such as cyclones. Future threats include sea level rise due to climate change. This species is listed as Vulnerable.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species is endemic to Niue, and has an extent of occurrence of less than 300 km².
Countries:
Native:
Niue
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Native:
Pacific – western central
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: There is no known population information for this species but it is common on Niue.
Population Trend: Unknown

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 reef. The average clutch size is three.
Systems: Terrestrial; Marine

Threats [top]

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

This species has a very restricted range and severe weather events such as cyclones can pose a significant threat. The region where this species occurs is still recovering from the last severe cyclone in 2004 (M. Guinea pers. comm. 2009).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: There are no species-specific conservation measures in place. It is important that conservation actions for members of 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 schistorhynchus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 20 September 2014.
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