Yellow Lipped Sea Krait

Yellow Lipped Sea Krait
YELLOW LIPPED SEA KRAIT (Laticauda columbrina)
Pronounced: La-ti-cod-u col-um-bri-na Order: Squamata
Kingdom: Animalia Family: Hydrophiidae
Phylum: Chordata Genus: Laticauda
Class: Reptilia Species: Colubrina


This toxic sea snake spends most of its time in the water, but still comes up for air and crawls onto land to lay eggs and digest large meals. Males and females look similar in pattern, but females are often larger than males. This may be due to the female’s main food source, large Conger eels, while the males feed on smaller Moray Eels and a few other eel species. Sea Kraits are related to Asian Cobras.

To help them survive and thrive in the water, sea snakes have paddle-like tails for faster swimming ability, and they can close their nostrils to avoid breathing in water. They have special extensions on their lungs which help them to dive deeply for long periods of time, especially as they chase eels. They also have a highly developed Jacobson’s organ, to help them sense chemicals in the water to find prey.

Another adaptation has only been discovered recently. It is the false head adaptation. While searching in coral crevices, a sea snake becomes vulnerable to predators from behind. To avoid this, the Yellow-Lipped Sea Krait has evolved coloration and behavior of its tail so that it looks and acts like the head, while the head is busy searching for food. This makes predators believe they are looking at the toxic end of a snake, rather than the tail. Even so, they are sometimes preyed upon by large fish, rays and sharks.

Although they probably evolved near Papua, New Guinea, this Sea Krait is now common in patches of water throughout much of the tropical world. It is usually found near coral reefs off the coast of small islands.

Very few nests of this species have been found, so there is little known about their reproductive habits and life cycle. However, it is known that when they hatch, baby Yellow-lipped Sea Kraits look very similar to the adults. They hunt alone but are sociable while they hide in crevices in coral reefs, or on land.

Yellow-lipped sea kraits are near threatened, due to the destruction of their coral reef habitats and the pollution and chemistry changes in ocean water.