Sea Snake

Sea Snakes

Scientific Classification

Common Name
sea snakes
Hydrophiidae ("water lovers")
Genus Species
Approximately 52 species

Fast Facts

Sea snakes can be identified by their flattened and oar-like tail. This adaptation allows sea snakes to propel themselves through the water more effectively. Other aquatic adaptations include salt glands and nostrils located at the top of their snouts to breathe more efficiently.
They vary in length, with the smallest adults being 50 cm (20 in.) long, to the largest, which may exceed 2 m (6.6 ft.).
No data
Sea snakes feed mainly on fishes and fish eggs.
Sea snakes can be oviparous (egg birth) or ovoviviparous (egg live birth), depending on the species. In ovoviviparous reproduction, the internally fertilized eggs of the female are retained in her body. The embryos soon shed their membrane and develop in the mother's uterus
Clutch Size: Sea snakes usually have 3-4 young at a time.
Sexual Maturity
No data
Life Span
No data
Sea snakes are widely distributed throughout the Indian and Pacific oceans, especially around Australia and New Guinea. Two species, Laticauda colubrina and Pelamis laturus, inhabit the coasts of the Americas.
Found in shallow or coastal water habitats. Some species may venture on land, although most sea snakes are helpless if washed ashore.
Global: No data
IUCN: One species, Crocker's sea snake, Laticauda crockeri, is listed as vulnerable.
CITES: Not listed
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

  1. Sea snakes are front-fanged and highly venomous.
  2. A fold in the gums of a sea snake hides the fangs, and the fangs quickly emerge when biting. Sea snake fangs are fragile and may break off and remain in the wounds of their victims. To counter the problem of having weak fangs, sea snakes have potent venom that can easily paralyze, kill, and begin the digestive process of the fish they target.

Ecology and Conservation

Generally, sea snakes are not aggressive animals - attacks on humans are extremely rare. Bites occur chiefly to fishermen who try to remove sea snakes from their nets. Also, sea snakes will defend themselves if seized or harassed.

Sea snakes are regarded as a delicacy in the Orient. Sea snakes are attracted by light, which is often the method used by humans to collect them.


Bauchot, Roland (ed.). Snakes a Natural History. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 1994.

Coborn, John. The Atlas of Snakes of the World. New Jersey: T.F.H. Publications, inc. 1991.

Cogger, H.G. and R. G. Zweifel. The Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians, 2nd ed. San Diego. Academic Press. 1998.

Ernst, Carl H., and Zug, George R. Snakes in Question. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996.

Mattison, Chris. Snakes of the World. New York: Facts on File Publications, Inc., 1986.

Mehrtens, John M. Living Snakes of the World. New York. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. 1987.