Acalyptophis peronii 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Reptilia Squamata Elapidae

Scientific Name: Acalyptophis peronii (Duméril, 1853)
Common Name(s):
English Spiny-headed Seasnake, Horned Sea Snake, Peron's Sea Snake
French Acalypte de Peron
Acalyptus peronii Duméril, 1853

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2010
Date Assessed: 2009-02-15
Assessor(s): Lukoschek, V., Rasmussen, A.R., Sanders, K., Lobo, A.S. & Courtney, T.
Reviewer(s): Livingstone, S., Elfes, C., Polidoro, B. & Carpenter, K.E.
This is a widespread species with a break between the northern and southern hemisphere distributions. In addition, it appears to have a spatially and temporally patchy distribution throughout its geographic range. It is captured as bycatch in trawl fisheries throughout its range but not to the same extent as many other sea snake species. It is found at a large range of depths over sandy bottoms associated with reefs where it forages primarily on gobies. This foraging specialization might make it vulnerable to the effects of habitat disturbances of soft sediments associated with coral reefs. This species is listed as Least Concern.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species has a large geographic range extending from northern Australia to Taiwan, however, it has a disjunct distribution between the northern and southern hemispheres. In the northern hemisphere its distribution ranges from Taiwan south to Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore (Tu 1974, Minton 1975, Heatwole 1999). In the southern hemisphere it is found along the northern coast of Australia, southern Papua New Guinea, southern Indonesia, in New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands (Ineich and Rasmussen 1997). It does not appear to occur in the Philippines or in the northern or central island of Indonesia (Tu 1974, Minton 1975, Heatwole 1999).
Countries occurrence:
Australia; Cambodia; China; Indonesia; Malaysia; New Caledonia; Papua New Guinea; Singapore; Solomon Islands; Taiwan, Province of China; Thailand; Viet Nam
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Indian Ocean – eastern; Pacific – northwest; Pacific – western central
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):60
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:There are no estimates of population size for A. peroni . Tu (1974) recorded just a few specimens of this species from the Gulf of Thailand (<0.03% of all snakes caught), however, it was more abundant in the Taiwan Strait, where it comprised ~3% of snakes captured (Tu and Stringer 1973). In Australia, most information on relative abundance comes from trawler bycatch studies, which indicate that it is has a very patchy spatial and temporal distribution throughout its Australian range: thus, it has been relatively uncommonly caught at some times or in some locations but commonly caught at other times or locations (Shuntov 1972). For example, it comprised just ~1% of all sea snakes caught in the Northern Prawn Trawl Fishery in 2003-2005 (Minton et al. 2008) and yet was the fourth most common species caught in the Queensland prawn trawl fishery (Courtney et al. 2010). In part these differences may reflect the type of trawlers used or areas trawled. For example, across northern Australia and over approximately the same period A. peroni comprised < 0.1% of all snakes caught by prawn trawlers (Ward 1996b) but ~10% of all snakes caught by fish trawlers (Ward 1996a).

This species is relatively rare in the Gulf of Thailand, but is quite common in the Strait of Formosa (A. Rasmussen pers. comm. 2009).

On a trip to the Marion Reef (Southern Coral Sea) in June 2008, on fifteen dives, sea snakes were encountered on almost every dive, but in small numbers. E. annulatus was the most commonly seen (ca. 70%), A. laevis was the next most common. A. duboisii and A. peronii were seen in smaller numbers in shallow water (N. Marsh pers. comm. 2009).

Three specimens were collected from fishermen in Makassar, South Sulawesi, in March-April 2010. Reportedly caught in nets (using lamps) near coral reefs around Pulau Baranglompo. Represented three out of 83 sea snake specimens collected from fishermen as by-catch (K. Sanders and Mumpuni pers. comms.).
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:A. peroni occurs over soft sandy habitats adjacent to the edges of coral reefs (McCosker 1975) and occurs in both shallow and deeper waters (40 - 50 m) (T .Courtney, M. Guinea, V. Lukoschek pers. comms. 2009). This species primarily feeds on gobies, which it takes from within the goby burrows and has been observed to examine and enter holes in sand and broken coral substrata searching for prey (Voris 1972, McCosker 1975).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): A. peronii is captured in trawl fisheries throughout its range. It is mostly caught in the inter-reefal fisheries within the species preferred habitat. Its occurrence in trawler bycatch in Australia varies spatially and temporally and with the type of trawl fishery species (Shuntov 1972; Redfield et al. 1978; Ward 1996a,b; Courtney et al. 2010; Milton et al. 2008).

This species appears to be a specialized feeder on gobies (Voris 1972, Ineich and Laboute 2002, Borsa 2008). It is, therefore, potentially impacted by habitat disturbance from trawlers on soft bottom habitats, which could destroy goby burrows and reduce the abundance of the preferred prey of this species (V. Lukoschek pers. comm. 2009).




Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

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

Sea snakes are protected in Australia as ‘Listed Marine Species’ under the Environment Protection Biodiversity and Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). The provisions of the EPBC Act requires that all Australian industries interacting with protected species (including ‘Listed Marine Species’), directly or indirectly, demonstrate sustainability for the species impacted by their activities (Milton 2008). In addition, the Fisheries Management Act 1991 requires fishing efforts to avoid captures of threatened and protected species such as sea snakes.

The Northern Prawn Fishery (NPF) in Australia has the largest impact on sea snake populations of any Commonwealth-managed fishery. The EPBC Act and the NPF’s commitments under its Strategic Assessment by the Department of the Environment and Water Resources, led to the commencement of a three year study on developing and implementing a long-term bycatch monitoring program for Australia’s NPF; ‘Design, trial and implementation of an integrated, long-term bycatch monitoring program, road tested in the Northern Prawn Fishery’ FRDC PN 2002/035 (Brewer et al. 2007 as cited by Milton et al. 2008). In addition, the NPF is required to demonstrate that its activities do not adversely impact sea snake species. Since 2003, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) have jointly run industry workshops to train crew-member observers in the identification, photography and recording of information on sea snakes caught in the NPF tiger and banana prawn seasons.

Commercial trials of different Bycatch Reduction Devices (BRDs) used in Australia’s NPF showed that two devices (Fisheye and Popeye Fishbox BRDs) can reduce sea snake catch by between 40 and 85% (without significant prawn loss) when set closer to the cod end than the minimum legally required distance, but <10% of fishers have responded to these findings by moving their Bycatch Reduction Devices closer to the cod end (Milton et al. 2008). Recommendation would be to reduce the number of individuals taken as bycatch in the prawn trawl fishery using appropriate exclusion devices and placement within nets (T. Courtney and E. Fletcher pers. comms. 2009).

Classifications [top]

9. Marine Neritic -> 9.4. Marine Neritic - Subtidal Sandy
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.8. Marine Neritic - Coral Reef -> 9.8.5. Inter-Reef Soft Substrate

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.4. Unintentional effects: (large scale) [harvest]
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

Bibliography [top]

Borsa, P. 2008. Sea snakes: overlooked predators at an urban fringing reef. Coral Reefs 27: 743.

Courtney, A. J., Schemel, B.C., Wallace, R., Campbell, M.J., Mayer D.G. and Young, B. 2010. Reducing the impact of Queensland's trawl fisheries on protected sea snakes. Fisheries Research and Development Coorporation (FRDC) Project #2005/053 Final Report.

Greer, A.E. 2006. Encyclopedia of Australian Reptiles. Available at:

Guinea, M.L. 2007. Marine Snakes: Species Profile for the North-western Planning Area. Report for the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Charles Darwin University, Darwin, NT.

Heatwole, H. 1999. Sea Snakes. Krieger Publishing Company, Malabar, Florida.

Ineich, I. and LaBoute, P. 2002. Sea snakes of New Caledonia. IRD, Paris.

Ineich, I. and Rasmussen, A.R. 1997. Sea snakes from New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands (Elapidae, Laticaudinae and Hydrophiinae). Zoosystema 19(2-3): 185-191.

IUCN. 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2010.4). Available at: (Accessed: 27 October 2010).

McCosker, J.E. 1975. Feeding behavior of Indo-Australian Hydrophiidae. In: W.A. Dunson (ed.), Biology of Sea Snakes, pp. 217-232. University Park Press, Baltimore, Maryland.

Milton, D., Zhou, S., Fry, G. and Dell, Q. 2008. Risk assessment and mitigation for sea snakes caught in the Northern Prawn Fishery. Final report. CSIRO, Cleveland, Queensland.

Minton, S.A. 1975. Geographic Distribution of Sea Snakes. In: W.A. Dunson (ed.), The Biology of Sea Snakes, pp. 21-32. University Park Press, Baltimore.

Redfield, J.A., Holmes, J.C. and Holmes, R.D. 1978. Sea snakes of the eastern Gulf of Carpentatria. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 29(3): 325-334.

Shuntov, V.P. 1972. Sea snakes of the North Australian Shelf. Translation of 1971 paper by Consultants Bureau, New York. Ekologiya 4: 65-72.

Tu, A.T. 1974. Sea snake investigation in the Gulf of Thailand. Journal of Herpetology 8(3): 201-210.

Tu, A.T. and Stringer, J.M. 1973. Three species of sea snakes not previously reported in the Strait of Formosa. Journal of Herpetology 7: 384-386.

Voris, H.K. 1972. The role of sea snakes (Hydrophiidae) in the trophic structure of coastal ocean communities. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of India 14(2): 429-442.

Ward, T.M. 1996a. Sea snake bycatch of fish trawlers on the northern Australian continental shelf. Marine and Freshwater Research 47: 625-630.

Ward, T.M. 1996b. Sea snake bycatch of prawn trawlers on the northern Australian continental shelf. Marine and Freshwater Research 47: 631-635.

Citation: Lukoschek, V., Rasmussen, A.R., Sanders, K., Lobo, A.S. & Courtney, T. 2010. Acalyptophis peronii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T176756A7298218. . Downloaded on 22 July 2018.
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