Laticauda colubrina 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Reptilia Squamata Elapidae

Scientific Name: Laticauda colubrina (Schneider, 1799)
Common Name(s):
English Columbrine Sea Krait, Yellow-lipped Sea Krait
Hydrus colubrinus Schneider, 1799
Taxonomic Notes: Before 2006, L. saintigironsi (endemic to New Caledonia), L. guineai (endemic to southern Papua New Guinea), and L. frontalis (a dwarf species endemic to Vanuatu) were considered to be the same species as L. colubrina (Heatwole et al. 2005, Cogger and Heatwole 2006).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2010
Date Assessed: 2009-02-15
Assessor(s): Lane, A., Guinea, M., Gatus, J. & Lobo, A.
Reviewer(s): Livingstone, S.R., Elfes, C.T., Polidoro, B.A. & Carpenter, K.E. (Global Marine Species Assessment Coordinating Team)
This is a very widespread species. Although there are some threats, these do not appear to be causing significant declines at this time. Sea level rise may become an important threat to this species in the future. This is listed as Least Concern.




Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:L. colubrina is one of the most widespread members of the genus Laticauda (Heatwole et al. 2005). It is found along the coasts of eastern India and Andaman Islands, east through Malaysia, Indonesia, and northward to Viet Nam and southern China, Taiwan, and the Ryuku Islands of Japan. Also found in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and the Philippines, Palau to the islands of the southwestern Pacific Ocean stretching to Fiji, Vanuatu and Niue. This species has been known to stray to Australia and New Zealand, though there is no evidence of breeding populations in these locations (Heatwole 1999).

This species is common on several of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, but it has rarely been spotted off islands near the Indian mainland (e.g. Grande Island in Goa) (A. Lobo pers. comm. 2009).

There have been unconfirmed sightings of this species near the western coast of Central America.
Countries occurrence:
American Samoa; Cambodia; China; Fiji; India (Andaman Is., Nicobar Is.); Indonesia; Japan; Malaysia; Micronesia, Federated States of ; Myanmar; Niue; Palau; Papua New Guinea; Philippines; Samoa; Singapore; Solomon Islands; Sri Lanka; Taiwan, Province of China; Thailand; Tonga; Vanuatu; Viet Nam
Australia; New Caledonia; New Zealand
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Indian Ocean – eastern; Pacific – eastern central; Pacific – northwest; Pacific – western central
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):100Lower depth limit (metres):50
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:This species has a patchy distribution and can be highly abundant in the locations where it is found.

A population estimate from a small (0.5 kmĀ²) rocky island in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, found approximately 721 individuals, with males outnumbering females 4 to 1 (Lading et al. 1991).


Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:L. colubrina is found in a wide range of habitats, including coral islands, coral reefs, mangroves, and in the open ocean. It feeds on eels (Heatwole 1999), and is usually found in shallow waters from 0-10 m depth (Cogger 2007).

The animals feed on eels in shallow coastal waters and return to land to rest, slough their skin and digest their prey (Shetty and Shine 2002b). On land they shelter in vegetation, under beach rocks, in crevices and caves. This species is more terrestrial in its habits than its congener, L. laticaudata, and this is reflected in its heavier bodied morphology and superior terrestrial locomotor abilities (Shine et al. 2003).

Oviparous females deposit their eggs on land (Guinea 1994) though interestingly, these eggs are very rarely encountered in the wild, with possibly only two nests reported over the entire distribution of the species. Their reproductive habits can therefore be considered highly secretive.

Females are larger and heavier-bodied than males (up to three times as heavy in Fiji; Pernetta 1977) and this sexual dimorphism is reflected in different diets, with females feeding on larger conger eels, while males feed predominantly on smaller moray eels (Shetty and Shine 2002c).

Populations of L. colubrina in Fiji have displayed strong site fidelity, with animals on islands separated by less than six kilometres remaining essentially separate (Shetty and Shine 2002a). Similar site fidelity has been recorded in New Caledonia, though this has not resulted in genetic differentiation between island sites separated by distances of up to 100 km (Lane 2009).


Systems:Terrestrial; Marine

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: In some areas this species may be collected for food and for medicinal purposes.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The major threats to this species may include anthropogenic disturbances such as coastal development and habitat destruction. This includes loss of shore habitats required for laying eggs and digesting prey. This species is attracted to light and may be affected by lighting from hotels and beach shacks in developing areas (A. Lobo pers. comm.). There is anecdotal evidence that resort developments on some Fijian islands may have reduced population sizes of L. colubrina (M. Guinea pers. comm. cited by Marsh et al. 1993).

Locals in the Andaman Islands suggest that this species was killed for food by Karen migrants from Myanmar, however, there is no confirmed evidence of this. Harvested as smoked sea snake in the Philippines and exported to Japan. This threat is localised to Cebu and Leyte Province (J. Gatus pers. comm. 2009).

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. 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 does 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).

Conservation of Laticauda snakes should take into account both their marine and terrestrial habitat requirements.

Citation: Lane, A., Guinea, M., Gatus, J. & Lobo, A. 2010. Laticauda colubrina. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T176750A7296975. . Downloaded on 26 September 2018.
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