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Hydrophis elegans (GRAY, 1842)

IUCN Red List - Hydrophis elegans - Least Concern, LC

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Higher TaxaElapidae (Hydrophiinae), Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Elegant or bar-bellied seasnake 
SynonymAturia elegans GRAY 1842: 61
Distira grandis BOULENGER 1896: 293
Hydrophis elegans — SMITH 1974: 104
Hydrophis elegans — COGGER 1983: 250
Leioselasma elegans — KHARIN 1984
Leioselasma elegans — WELCH 1994: 71
Hydrophis elegans — SHINE 1994
Hydrophis elegans — COGGER 2000: 716
Leioselasma elegans — KHARIN 2005
Hydrophis elegans — SANDERS et al. 2012
Leioselasma elegans — WALLACH et al. 2014: 367 
DistributionAustralia (New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia),
Papua New Guinea, Philippines (Panay etc.)

Type locality: Port Essington, N. T.  
TypesHolotype: BMNH 1946.1.3.89
Syntypes: BMNH 1946.1.17.10-11 (Malay Archipelago), BMNH (Qld. ), from Malay Archipelago and Qld. [Distira grandis]. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: Distinguished from other species of Hydrophis by its high ventral count (354-401) and its colour pattern which consists of black bands, constricted on sides (of thinner parts of body) and bars on back and belly where the bands have been broken (thicker parts of body). No white orbital ring. (Smith 1974)

Description: Body long, slender anteriorly. Head small, elongate. Canthus rostralis never prominent. Grows to approximately 1525 mm (M.A. Smith records 2240 mm).
Rostral as wide as high. Nasals less than twice width of rostral. Nostril almost touching posterior and lateral borders of nasal. Preocular 1; postoculars 2 (rarely 1). One large anterior temporal. Upper labials 6 or 7, third and fourth entering orbit. First two or three labials deep, remainder small. Two pairs of chin shields prominent; anterior pair the longest, always in broad contact; posterior pair always separated by a small scale.
Nuchals in 25-30 rows. Scales around thickest part of body in 35-45 rows (increase 10-20); weakly imbricate, smooth or with a short keel. Ventrals smooth, 354-401 (? 314), slightly wider than adjacent dorsals. 39-44 blackish dorsal bars or bands, the bands tending to be constricted on flanks and con- fined to tail and thinner parts of body. Bands which have been broken at constriction form a dorsal and ventral bar. These bars are confined to thicker parts of body. Interspaces between'bars and bands on back have a row of small black dots, while on flanks there is a small black spot. Ventrals with a dark longitudinal line (most pronounced in juveniles). Head blackish in juveniles, grey or olivaceous in adults. (Smith 1974) 
CommentVenomous! Synonymy partly after COGGER 1983.

Habitat: marine. This species is known from 145 m depth in the Broome area, probably one of the deepest records of sea snakes (A. Rasmussen, pers. comm. 27 Jan 2016). 
  • Boulenger, G.A. 1896. Catalogue of the snakes in the British Museum, Vol. 3. London (Taylor & Francis), xiv + 727 pp. - 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.
  • Ferner, John W., Rafe M. Brown, Rogelio V. Sison and Robert S. Kennedy 2000. The amphibians and reptiles of Panay Island, Philippines. Asiatic Herpetological Research 9: 1-37 - get paper here
  • Gray, J. E. 1842. Monographic Synopsis of the Water Snakes, or the Family of Hydridae. Zoological Miscellany 2: 59-68. - get paper here
  • Kharin V E 1984. A review of sea snakes of the group Hydrophis sensu lato (Serpentes, Hydrophiidae). 3. The genus Leioselasma [in Russian]. Zoologicheskii Zhurnal 63 (10): 1535-1546
  • Kharin, V.E. 2005. On new findings of a rare sea snake Leioselasma czeblukovi Kharin, 1984, with remarks on species composition and taxonomical position of the genus Leioselasma Lacepede, 1804, (Serpentes: Hydrophiidae). Russian Journal of Marine Biology 31 (5): 269-272. - get paper here
  • Lillywhite, H.B. 2022. Discovering snakes in wild places. ECO Publishing, Rodeo, NM, 164 pp. - get paper here
  • McDowell, S. B. 1972. The genera of sea-snakes of the Hydrophis group (Serpentes: Elapidae). Trans. Zool. Soc. Lond 32: 189-247 - 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
  • Porter, Robert; Irwin, Steve; Irwin, Terri;Rodrigues, Keith 1997. Records of marine snake species from the Hey-Embley and Mission Rivers, far North Queensland. Herpetofauna (Sydney) 27 (2): 2-7
  • Rasmussen, A. R. & I. INEICH 2000. Sea snakes of New Caledonia and surrounding waters (Serpentes: Elapidae): first report on the occurence of Lapemis curtus and description of new species from the genus Hydrophis. Hamadryad 25 (2): 91-99 - 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
  • Redfield, J. A., Holmes, J. C. & Holmes, R. D. 1978. Sea snakes of the eastern Gulf of Carpentaria. Aust. J Mar. Freshwat. Res. 29: 325-334 - get paper here
  • Sanders, K.L.; Michael S.Y. Lee, Mumpuni, Terry Bertozzi, Arne R. Rasmussen 2012. Multilocus phylogeny and recent rapid radiation of the viviparous sea snakes (Elapidae: Hydrophiinae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 66 (3): 575-591 - get paper here
  • Shine, Richard 1994. Sexual size dimorphism in snakes revisited. Copeia 1994 (2): 326-346 - 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, L. A. 1974. The sea snakes of Western Australia (Serpentes: Elapidae: Hydrophiinae) with a description of a new subspecies. Rec. West. Aust. Mus. 3: 93-110 - 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.
  • 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.
  • Wilson, S. & Swan, G. 2010. A complete guide to reptiles of Australia, 3rd ed. Chatswood: New Holland, 558 pp.
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