By Blane Perun
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Black and white sea snake is a species of sea snake that originates from the family hydrophiidae. The scientific name for the black and white sea snake is Laticauda colubrine. It has several common names including colubrine sea krait, banded sea krait and yellow lipped sea krait. Laticauda colubrine is often confused with L. laticaudata. You can differentiate them by counting 21 scale rows at the mid body of L. laticaudata compare to 19 in Laticauda colubrine. In addition, L. laticaudata has a much similar appearance with the Bungarus sea snake.
The black and white sea snake has a large ventral. The size of the ventral is 1/3 of the body’s width. It has lateral nostrils which are separated by internasals. It is estimated that it has 21 – 25 bands on the scales of its body. Laticauda colubrine is the sole member of sea snake that give birth its young by laying eggs. They spend most of the time on the land after laying their eggs. Hence, it has a cylindrical body shape with ventral scales just like the land snake. The ventral scales help the snake to climb the tree easily. However, the Laticauda colubrine is also well adapted to the water. Like the hydropiids, the Laticauda colubrine has a compressed tail which allows it to propel forward in the water and move speedily. They have strong lungs which allow them to hold their breath underwater for extended period. However, they must come up to the surface of the water to breath in oxygen. On average, the Laticauda colubrine must surface the water from 7 – 8 hours underwater. The valvular nostrils and glands in the tongue prevent the saltwater from entering the lung.
The body length of the males is 875mm while the body length of the females is 1420 mm. The tail length of the males is 130mm and the tail length for the females is 145 mm. The maximum recorded length is 360 cm. The upper part of the snake has light bluish grey and the lower part has yellowish color. It can produce poisonous venom but it is not aggressive if you don’t disturb it.
Their primary food source includes eel, gobies, giant trevally and goatfish. They often hunt the prey in large hunting parties. The often trap their prey in the crevices of the coral reefs by using their body coils.
Laticauda colubrine has a limited population in the world. They are found mostly in the Pacific Ocean. Sometimes, they can be seen in the tropical and temperate coasts of Australia. Despite that, the black and white sea snake is not found in the United States. They are truly marine snake. However, they will come to the land during the breeding season. They live in swampy areas near mangroves, coral reefs and islands. They are often spotted in 1 – 10 m of the water. They sleep during the day and catch the prey at night. Sometimes, they are found foraging in the coral reef in the day time.