Like all species within the Aipysurus genus, the reef shallows sea snake is an entirely aquatic species, never venturing onto land, not even to breed (11). This species is active during the day, although it spends much of its time resting under sea fans or hidden within seaweed (3).
Despite being an air-breathing animal, the reef shallows sea snake is capable of remaining underwater for up to two hours at a time, before surfacing to breathe again. Its single, elongated lung, which extends for almost the entire length of its body, is highly efficient for gas exchange, and sea snakes are also able to absorb oxygen through their skin when underwater. All sea snakes have specialised nostril valves which prevent water from entering the lung when submerged (7).
Living in a marine environment poses several challenges. As in other sea snake species, the reef shallows sea snake has a specialised gland under its tongue which enables it to excrete excess salt from its body. Additionally, other marine species such as algae and barnacles often become attached to the reef shallows sea snake’s skin, a problem which is solved each time the snake sheds its skin, which usually happens every two to six weeks (7).
Although the reef shallows sea snake’s venom is highly toxic (2) (3), this species is not thought to pose much of a threat to humans, as it is a relatively small snake and does not yield much venom (3).
Like most species of sea snake, the reef shallows sea snake is viviparous, meaning that it gives birth to live young rather than laying eggs (3) (7). Mating in sea snakes is a lengthy affair, and the males are unable to disengage from the female until copulation is complete. In northern Australia, the gestation period of the reef shallows sea snake is between six and seven months, with births occurring between March and June (7). Reef shallows sea snake litters are relatively small (6), consisting of about four or five young on average (7), and the young are relatively large (6) (7). Female reef shallows sea snakes are thought to reproduce every year (7).
The reef shallows sea snake has a more varied diet than some other sea snakes (9), opportunistically feeding on a wide range of reef fish species (1) (3) (6) (7) (9). For example, it is known to take blennies (Blennidae species), parrotfish (Scaridae species) and surgeonfish (Acanthuridae species) (7), as well as moray eels (Muraenidae species) (3) (7). The reef shallows sea snake stalks its prey along the sea bed (3), and is thought to feed in the early evening (7). The seaweed which sometimes grows over its skin is useful as camouflage, helping the snake to ambush its unsuspecting prey (3).