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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024







Short Sea Snake

Family : ELAPIDAE (Hydrophiinae)
Species : Hydrophis curtus (Lapemis curtus)
Maximum Size : 97 cm

The Short Sea Snake Hydrophis curtus (Lapemis curtus) is also known by a variety of other names including 'Shaw's Sea Snake' and 'Hardwicke痴 Sea Snake.

This snake has a thick, robust body shape, and its short head is barely wider than its body. Its tail is short and highly compressed, and its ventral skin is loose and baggy.

Its dorsal scales are yellowish or olive on the flanks, becoming dark grey along the top of the body, and the lower flanks are cream or pinkish. Pale banding is present in juveniles, however this patterning is less visible in large adults. 

The lower scale rows of males have paired, spiny projections (see Fig 2), which probably help to secure a couple whilst mating.

As with nearly all sea snakes, this species is viviparous i.e. eggs are not laid, but instead the young are born directly into an aquatic habitat.

A study from the western coast of India (Lobo et al, 2005) confirmed that this snake is a generalist feeder, preying on fishes from different depths of the marine environment.

This widespread snake is recorded in shallow seas at the margins of continental Southeast Asia. Its broader range extends from the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean through Southeast Asia to the western Pacific Ocean.

Fig 1 :
Example from the Straits of Malacca, caught as by-catch by fishermen operating from Pulau Pinang, Peninsular Malaysia. Photo thanks to Luke Allen.

Fig 2 : Close up of the lower scale rows of a male Hydrophis curtus showing paired spiny projections. Photo thanks to Luke Allen.

Fig 3 : The murky, silt-laden waters of the Straits of Malacca recede at low tide, revealing extensive coastal mudflats fringed by mangrove, near the fishing village of Parit Jawa, Johor, Peninsular Malaysia. These narrow straits lie in the heart of the range of Hydrophis curtus.

References :

Lobo, A. S., Vasudevan, K. & Pandav, B. (2005). Trophic ecology of Lapemis curtus (Hydrophiinae) along the western coast of India. Copeia, 2005(3), 637-641

Links : Reptile Database

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