Vertebrate fauna of SE Asia


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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2022



Beaked Sea Snake

Family : ELAPIDAE (Hydrophiinae)
Species : Hydrophis schistosus (Enhydrina schistosa)
Maximum Size : 1.6 metres

The Beaked Sea Snake (also called 'Hook-nosed Sea Snake') is considered to be one of the most venomous in the genus Hydrophis.

The 'beak' refers to the extended rostral scale (i.e. the scale above the nose) which hooks downwards over the mouth.

This snake has a robust body, which broadens posteriorly, and a short, thick tail. The head is slightly wider than the anterior part of the body. The dorsum is greyish in colour, and the ventrum is yellowish to cream. Faint dark markings may be evident on the dorsum, which may form a series of narrow, transverse bands.

A study undertaken in the Muar River, Johor, Peninsular Malaysia, revealed a dietary preference for sea catfishes (fork-tailed catfishes), supplemented by eel-tailed catfishes and puffer fishes (Voris et al, 1978).

A mark-and-recapture study at the mouth of the same river, close to where it empties into the Straits of Malacca, postulated that these muddy, tidal waters may serve as a nursery for young snakes, who appear to spend between 6 and 12 months in the area before heading out to sea (Voris et al, 1983).

It is a widespread species of sea snake, which ranges from the Persian Gulf through parts of the northern Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia to New Guinea and northern Australia.

Figs 1 and 2 :
Example from the Straits of Malacca: the snake was landed as by-catch by fishermen operating from the port of Teluk Bahang, on the island of Penang, Peninsular Malaysia. Photos thanks to Luke Allen.

Fig 3 : Muar River estuary, Johor, Peninsular Malaysia with the Straits of Malacca in the distance: this was the  site of a successful mark-and-recapture study of the Beaked Sea Snake in the 1980's (see Voris et al, 1983).

References :

Voris, H. K., Voris, H. H. & Jeffries, W. B. (1983). Sea snakes: mark-release-recapture. Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin 54, 5-10.

Voris, H. K., Voris, H. H., & Liat, L. B. (1978). The food and feeding behavior of a marine snake, Enhydrina schistosa (Hydrophiidae). Copeia, 1978(1), 134-146.

Links : Reptile Database

Fig 1
ゥ  Luke Allen
Fig 2
ゥ  Luke Allen
Fig 3