The Arabian Gulf sea snake (Hydrophis lapemoides) can be identified by its striking patterning, comprising 33 to 35 dark bands along the length of the body, contrasted against a background colour of yellow or pale green (2). The bands become significantly wider on the upper surface of the body relative to the sides, but are thin on the tail, which has a dark tip (3). The body is noticeably thicker and wider than the head, which is relatively small with a narrow, yellow band in front of the eyes (2). Like most sea snakes, the tail of this species is flattened and paddle-like, and helps to propel the snake through the water (2)(4). Other adaptations to the living in the water include valved nostrils, which close when this species is submerged (2).
Well-adapted for life in the marine environment, the Arabian Gulf sea snake’s entire life-cycle takes place in the water, and it never voluntarily comes ashore (2)(4). Like most sea snakes, eels and other types of bony fish are likely to be the main source of prey for this species, which it locates amongst crevices in rocks and coral reefs (4). Prey is caught by means of a swift bite, administering a highly toxic, fast-acting venom, which kills the victim and also breaks down its tissues to aid digestion (2)(4). Despite the venom being highly toxic to humans, sea snakes are usually placid and present little threat (2). While little is known about this species’ reproduction, sea snakes typically give birth to a small number of well-developed live young (4).
As its name suggests, this species can be found in the Arabian Gulf, although its range also extends much further, with Arabian Gulf sea snake individuals recorded off the coasts of Sri Lanka, India, Singapore, Thailand, and the Malaysian island of Penang (5).
While there are no known conservation measures in place for this species, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi is working towards a greater understanding of sea snake species found in the Arabian Gulf (6)
Hellyer, P. and Aspinall, S. (2005) The Emirates: A Natural History. Trident Press Limited, United Arab Emirates.
Rasmussen, A.R. (2001) Sea Snakes. In: Carpenter, K.E. and Niem, V.H. (Eds) FAO species identification guide for fishery purposes. The living marine resources of the Western Central Pacific: Volume 6. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.
Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Soorae, P.S., Das, H.S. and Al Mazrouei, H. (2006) Records of sea snakes (subfamily Hydrophiinae) from the coastal waters of the Abu Dhabi Emirate, United Arab Emirates. Zoology in the Middle East, 39: 109 - 110.
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