IUCN threat status:

Least Concern (LC)

Brief Summary

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The dangerously venomous Yellow-bellied sea snake (Hydrophis platurus, sometimes referred to as Pelamis platura; see Sanders et al. 2013) is the most widely distributed of all sea snakes, ranging from the east coast of Africa throughout southern and eastern coastal Asia, as far north as southern Siberia and east throughout Indonesia to Australia and Tasmania. It is also known from the Gulf of Panama and north to Baja California in western North America (likely having arrived there during the interstadial warm periods of the Pleistocene via a circum-Alaska route following the Japanese and California currents). Occasional strays have been seen in the Galapagos Archipelago to the south and in the Hawaiian Islands. Although this is primarily a pelagic species, it has also been found in bays and estuaries. It is active both day and night. (Leviton et al. 2003 and references therein)

Levitoon et al. (2003) provide a technical description of this species: Body compressed, posteriorly more than twice neck diameter. Body scales juxtaposed, subquadrangular in shape, in 49-67 rows around thickest part of body; ventral scales 264-406, very small and, if distinct, divided by a longitudinal groove, but usually indistinguishable from adjacent body scales; head narrow, snout elongate, head shields entire, nostrils superior, nasal shields in contact with one another; prefrontal in contact with second upper labial. 1-2 pre- and 2-3 postoculars; 2-3 small anterior temporals; 7-8 upper labials, 4-5 below eye but separated from border by subocular; color variable but most often distinctly bicolored: black above, yellow or brown below, the dorsal and ventral colors sharply demarcated; ventrally, there may be a serious of black spots or bars on the yellow or brown background or the yellow may extend dorsally so that there is only a narrow middorsal black stripe, or a series of black crossbars. Total length: males 720 mm, females 880 mm; tail length males 80 mm, females 90 mm.


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