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Emydocephalus annulatus KREFFT, 1869

IUCN Red List - Emydocephalus annulatus - Least Concern, LC

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Higher TaxaElapidae (Hydrophiinae), Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Turtle-headed seasnake, Egg-eating Sea Snake 
SynonymEmydocephalus annulatus KREFFT 1869: 92
Emydocephalus tuberculatus KREFFT 1869: 93
Aipysurus chelonicephalus BAVAY 1869: 34
Emydocephalus annulatus — WALL 1909: 188
Emydocephalus annulatus — COGGER 1983: 246
Emydocephalus annulatus — WELCH 1994: 59
Emydocephalus annulatus — COGGER 2000: 708
Emydocephalus annulatus — RASMUSSEN et al. 2011
Emydocephalus szczerbaki DOTSENKO 2011 (fide NANKIVELL et al. 2020)
Emydocephalus annulatus — WALLACH et al. 2014: 268 
DistributionIndonesian sea (Timor), New Caledonia, Vietnam, Philippines,
Australia (Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia, New South Wales)

Type locality: "probably the Australian Seas."

szczerbaki: Vietnam; Type locality: Ba Ria - Vung Tau, Vietnam  
TypesSyntypes: AMS (AM) R454, AM R6633
Holotype: AMS (AM) R455, from "probably the Australian Seas." [Emydocephalus tuberculatus].
Holotype: Marine Museum Brest, from Lifu (as Lifou), Loyalty Ils., New Caledonia, fide Smith (1926) [Aipysurus chelonicephalus].
Holotype: NMNHU (also as ZM NMNH) 27, Kiev, Ukraine [szczerbaki] 
DiagnosisDiagnostic characters: Three supralabials, the second very long. Large ventrals, each three or more times as broad as the adjacent body scales. Scale rows around neck 15; scale rows around body 1, rarely 15; ventrals 125– 146. Only rudimentary maxillary teeth behind fangs. Colouration: Highly variable, body ranging from uniform black or brown to yellow, with or without bands.

DIAGNOSIS (genus). Maxillary bone shorter than ectopterygoid and extends forward beyond palatine; no maxillary teeth present following the very small venom fangs; nostrils superior; nasal scales in contact with one another dorsally; scales in dorsum of head large; second upper labial scale very elongate; scales on body imbricate, in 15–19 longitudinal rows at midbody (Leviton et al. 2014: 501)

Description (genus): Smith 1926: 26

Description (species): Smith 1926: 26 

Synonymy mainly after COGGER 1983. BOULENGER (1908) synonymized E. ijimae with E. annulatus.

Distribution: Does not occur in Japan (T. HIKIDA, pers. comm.).

Type species: Emydocephalus annulatus KREFFT 1869 is the type species of the genus Emydocephalus KREFFT 1869.

Habitat: marine.

Diet: Feeds only on fish eggs. 
EtymologyNamed after the diminutive form (“annul-”) of Latin “anus” = ring.

Emydocephalus szczerbaki was named after Nikolai Nikolaevich Szczerbak (1927-1998), Ukrainian herpetologist who was arrested by the NKVD (Secret Police) and imprisoned in the Gulag (1948-1954). See Adler 1999 for more details. 
  • Adler, Kraig 1999. Nikolai Nikolaevich Szczerbak (31 October 1927-27 January 1998). Gekko 1 (1): 36-37
  • Bauer, A. M. & SADLIER, R. A. 2000. The herpetofauna of New Caledonia. Contributions to Herpetology, 17; Society for Study Amphibians and Reptiles, Ithaca, New York.
  • Bauer, Aaron M.;Vindum, Jens V. 1990. A checklist and key to the herpetofauna of New Caledonia, with remarks on biogeography. Proc. Cal. Acad. Sci. 47 (2): 17-45 - get paper here
  • Bavay,A. 1869. Catalogue des Reptiles de las Nouvelle - Caledonie et description d'especes nouvelles. Memoires Societe Linniene de Normandie 15: 1-37
  • Berry P F 1986. Faunal surveys of the Rowley Shoals, Scott Reef and Seringapatam Reef, north western Australia. Part 8. Insects, reptiles, birds and seagrasses. Rec. West. Austr. Mus. Suppl. No. 25: 105-106 - get paper here
  • Boulenger, G. A. 1908. Note on the ophidian genus Emydocephalus. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (8) 1: 231 - get paper here
  • Cogger, H. G. 1975. The sea snakes of Australia and New Guinea. pp. 59-139 in Dunson, W. (ed. ) The Biology of Sea Snakes. Baltimore: University Park Press
  • Cogger, H. G. 2014. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, 7th ed. CSIRO Publishing, xxx + 1033 pp. - get paper here
  • Cogger, H.G. 2000. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, 6th ed. Ralph Curtis Publishing, Sanibel Island, 808 pp.
  • Crowe-Riddell JM, Snelling EP, Watson AP, Suh AK, Partridge JC, Sanders KL. 2016. The evolution of scale sensilla in the transition from land to sea in elapid snakes. Open Biol. 6: 160054 - get paper here
  • Crowe-Riddell, J. M., Jolly, C. J., Goiran, C., & Sanders, K. L. 2021. The sex life aquatic: sexually dimorphic scale mechanoreceptors and tactile courtship in a sea snake Emydocephalus annulatus (Elapidae: Hydrophiinae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society - get paper here
  • Dotsenko I.B. 2011. Emydocephalus szczerbaki sp. n. (Serpentes, Elapidae, Hydrophiinae) ― a new species of the turtleheaded sea snake genus from Vietnam [In Russian]. Zbirnik prats’ zoologichnogo museyu. Kiev. 41: 128-138 [2010]
  • Goiran, Claire; Paco Bustamante, Richard Shine 2017. Industrial Melanism in the Seasnake Emydocephalus annulatus. Current Biology - get paper here
  • Guinea, M.L. 1996. Functions of the Cephalic Scales of the Sea Snake Emydocephalus annulatus Journal of Herpetology 30 (1): 126-128. - get paper here
  • Kharin, V.E. 2008. Biota of the Russian Waters of the Sea of Japan Vol. 7 - Reptilians [in English and Russian]. Vladivostok, Dalnauka, 170 pp.
  • Krefft, G. 1869. The Snakes of Australia; an Illustrated and Descriptive Catalogue of All the Known Species. Sydney, Govt. Printer xxv + 100 pp. - get paper here
  • Kukoschek, V.; Heatwole, H.; Grech, A.; Burns, G.; Marsh, H. 2007. Distribution of two species of sea snakes, Aipysurus laevis and Emydocephalus annulatus, in the southern Great Barrier Reef: metapopulation dynamics, marine protected areas and conservation. Coral Reefs 26(2):291-307 - get paper here
  • Leviton, A.E., R.M. Brown, and C.D. Siler. 2014. The dangerously venomous snakes of the Philippine Archipelago. in The Coral Triangle: The 2011 Hearst Biodiversity Philippine Expedition (G.C. Williams and T.M. Gosliner, eds.). California Academy of Sciences, USA, Pp 473–530
  • McDowell, S. B. 1969. Notes on the Australian sea-snake Ephalophis greyi M. Smith (Serpentes: Elapidae: Hydrophiinae) and the origin and classification of sea-snakes. Zool. J. Linnean Soc. 48: 333-349 - get paper here
  • Minton S A; Dunson W W 1985. Sea snakes collected at Chesterfield Reefs, Coral Sea. ATOLL RESEARCH BULLETIN No. 292: 101-108
  • Mori,M. 1982. Japans Schlangen, Vols. 1-3 (80, 102, 123 pp.). Tokyo (Igaku-Shoin Ltd.) [bilingual edition in German and Japanese]
  • NANKIVELL, JAMES H.; CLAIRE GOIRAN, MATHEW HOURSTON, RICHARD SHINE, ARNE R. RASMUSSEN, VICKI A. THOMSON, KATE L. SANDERS 2020. A new species of turtle-headed sea Snake (Emydocephalus: Elapidae) endemic to Western Australia. Zootaxa 4758 (1): 141–156 - get paper here
  • O'Shea,M. 1996. A Guide to the Snakes of Papua New Guinea. Independent Publishing, Port Moresby, xii + 239 pp. - get paper here
  • O’Shea, M. 2018. The Book of Snakes. Ivy Press / Quarto Publishing, London, - get paper here
  • RASMUSSEN, ARNE REDSTED; JOHAN ELMBERG, PETER GRAVLUND & IVAN INEICH 2011. Sea snakes (Serpentes: subfamilies Hydrophiinae and Laticaudinae) in Vietnam: a comprehensive checklist and an updated identification key. Zootaxa 2894: 1–20 - get paper here
  • RASMUSSEN, ARNE REDSTED; KATE LAURA SANDERS, MICHAEL L. GUINEA & ANDREW P. AMEY 2014. Sea snakes in Australian waters (Serpentes: subfamilies Hydrophiinae and Laticaudinae)—a review with an updated identification key. Zootaxa 3869 (4): 351–371 - get paper here
  • Shine, R., Shine, T.G., Brown, G.P. et al. 2020. Life history traits of the sea snake Emydocephalus annulatus, based on a 17-yr study. Coral Reefs (2020) - get paper here
  • Shine, Richard, Gregory P. Brown & Claire Goiran. 2022. Divergence in life-history traits among three adjoining populations of the sea snake Emydocephalus annulatus (Hydrophiinae, Elapidae). Scientific Reports 12(1): 5137. - get paper here
  • Shine, Richard; Claire Goiran, Catherine Shilton, Shai Meiri, Gregory P Brown 2019. The life aquatic: an association between habitat type and skin thickness in snakes. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, blz136 - get paper here
  • Smith, M. A. 1926. Monograph on the Sea Snakes. (Hydrophiidae). London: British Museum, xvii + 130 pp.
  • Swan, G.; Sadlier, R.; Shea, G. 2017. A field guide to reptiles of New South Wales. Reed New Holland, 328 pp.
  • Voris, H. K. 1966. Fish eggs as the apparent sole food item for a genus of sea snake, Emydocephalus (Krefft). Ecology 47: 152-154 - get paper here
  • Wall, F. 1909. Monograph on the Sea Snakes. Mem. Asiatic Soc. Bengal 2 (8): 169-251 - get paper here
  • Wallach, Van; Kenneth L. Williams , Jeff Boundy 2014. Snakes of the World: A Catalogue of Living and Extinct Species. [type catalogue] Taylor and Francis, CRC Press, 1237 pp.
  • Weinell, Jeffrey L.; Errol Hooper, Alan E. Leviton, Rafe M. Brown 2019. Illustrated Key to the Snakes of the Philippines. Proc. Cal. Acad. Sci. (4) 66 (1): 1-49 - get paper here
  • Wilson, S. & Swan, G. 2010. A complete guide to reptiles of Australia, 3rd ed. Chatswood: New Holland, 558 pp.
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