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Hydrophis platurus (LINNAEUS, 1766)

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Higher TaxaElapidae (Hydrophiinae), Colubroidea, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes) 
SubspeciesHydrophis platurus platurus LINNAEUS 1766
Hydrophis platurus xanthos BESSESEN & GALBREATH 2017 
Common NamesE: Yellowbelly Sea Snake, Pelagic Sea Snake
G: Plättchen Seeschlange
Farsi: Mâr-e daryâï-ye shekam zard 
SynonymAnguis platura LINNAEUS 1766: 391
Hydrus bicolor SCHNEIDER 1799: 242
Pelamis bicolor — SCHNEIDER 1799
Pelamis platuros [sic] DAUDIN 1803: 361
Pelamis bicolor — DAUDIN 1803: 366
Pelamis schneideri RAFINESQUE 1817: 432 (nom. subst.)
Hydrophis pelamis SCHLEGEL 1837: 187 (nom. subst.)
Pelamis ornata GRAY 1842: 60
Pelamis bicolor — DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL 1854: 1335
Pelamis bicolor var. variegata DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL 1854: 1337
Pelamis bicolor var. sinuata DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL 1854: 1338
Hydrophis (Pelamis) bicolor Var. alternans FISCHER 1855
Hydrophis (Pelamis) bicolor Var. sinuata — FISCHER 1855
Hydrophis (Pelamis) bicolor Var. alternans FISCHER 1856: 63 (nom. subst. pro P. variegata).
Hydrophis (Pelamis) bicolor — FISCHER 1856: 63
Hydrophis (Pelamis) bicolor Var. sinuata — FISCHER 1856: 63
Hydrus platurus — BOULENGER 1896: 267
Hydrus platurus — STEJNEGER 1907: 439
Pelamydrus platurus — STEJNEGER 1910: 111
Pelamydrus platurus — KINGHORN 1928
Pelamydrus platurus — MERTENS 1930
Pelamis platurus — SMITH 1943: 476
Pelamis platurus — PETERS & OREJAS-MIRANDA 1970: 239
Pelamis platurus — STEBBINS 1985: 224
Pelamis platurus — LINER 1994
Pelamis platurus — GLAW & VENCES 1994: 350
Pelamis platurus — COX et al. 1998: 35
Pelamis platurus — MURPHY, COX & VORIS 1999
Pelamis platurus — COGGER 2000: 722
Pelamis platura — BÖHME 2003
Pelamis platurus — LEVITON et al. 2003
Pelamis platurus — SHARMA 2004
Pelamis platyura [sic] — DAS & YAAKOB 2007
Pelamis platurus — SANG et al. 2009
Pelamis platurus — WILSON & SWAN 2010: 532
Pelamis platura — CROTHER et al. 2012
Hydrophis platurus — SANDERS et al. 2012 [by implication]
Pelamis platura — WALLACH et al. 2014: 540
Pelamis platurus — COGGER 2014: 813
Pelamis platurus — CHAN-ARD et al. 2015: 269
Hydrophis platurus — REZAIE-ATAGHOLIPOUR et al. 2016 
DistributionIndian Ocean, India (Kerala), Sri Lanka, Pacific Ocean (Japan)
South China Sea northward to the coastal regions of Zhejiang and Taiwan, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Maldives, Malaysia,
coasts of Malay Peninsula and Indoaustralian Archipelago to New Guinea, Gulf of Thailand and Philippines (Surigao del Norte etc.), Andaman Islands, Nicobar Islands, Korea, Vanuatu, Fiji, Micronesia (Kosrae), Palau

Russia (S Primorskij Territory; Only one dead specimen was found in Russia: on the coast of the Sea of Japan, near Vladivostok city; a second one was reported by Kharin 2007),

Madagascar, Tanzania (Loveridge 1957), Somalia, Namibia (Branch 1998),Persian Gulf (Oman, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Iran etc.) to Bay of Bengal

Australia (New South Wales, North Territory, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, West Australia), New Zealand, Solomon Islands [McCoy 2000].
New Caledonia, Nauru,

USA (California - occasionally, e.g. during El Niño years)
Mexico (Chiapas, Oaxaca, Gulf of California, Jalisco), Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Galapagos Islands, Peru; Chile, possibly introduced to the Caribbean.

Type locality: non given

xanthos: COSTA RICA; Type locality: COSTA RICA: Golfo Dulce: inner basin, 08°35.76'N; 083°13.25'W. Map legend:
Type locality - Type locality.
TDWG region - Region according to the TDWG standard, not a precise distribution map.

NOTE: TDWG regions are generated automatically from the text in the distribution field and not in every cases it works well. We are working on it.
 
Reproductionviviparous. 
TypesHolotype: unknown (fide SANG et al. 2009).
Holotype: MZUCR:HERP:20614 (Zoological Museum of University of Costa Rica, San Jose, Costa Rica), female 
CommentVenomous!

Synonymy after COGGER 1983 and STEJNEGER 1907. The name must read “platura” not “platurus” according to BÖHME (2003), Salamandra 39 (2): 124.

Type species: Pelamis bicolor Schneider, 1799 is the type species of the genus Pelamis Daudin, 1803:361.

Type: unknown fide PETERS 1960.

DIAGNOSIS: Body compressed, posteriorly more than twice the diameter of the neck; body scales juxtaposed, sub-quadrangular 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 from one another; ventrally there may be a series 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 (see Smith 1943:476–477 for a more complete description of the color pattern variants). Total length males 720 mm, females 880 mm; tail length males 80 mm, females 90 mm. [after LEVITON 2003]. See REZAIE-ATAGHOLIPOUR et al. 2016 for a more recent diagnosis.

Diagnosis (xanthos). Here we describe a new, allopatric subspecies, Hydrophis platurus xan- thos subsp. n., or yellow sea snake, from the inner basin of Costa Rica’s Golfo Dulce. The new subspecies is diagnosed based on a dramatic color character state, as well as by a marked difference in body size. Aspects of behavior also appear to be unique. Hydrophis platurus xanthos is diagnosed as differing from other H. platurus by its predominantly yellow coloration and smaller size. Apparent additional behavioral di- agnostic traits include a sinusoidal ambush posture, and a preference for surfacing in rough rather than smooth waters, lacking an association with drift lines. No specimens unambiguously assignable to this taxon have shown full lateral striation on head and body or prominent spots or bands on the tail. The appearance of H. p. xanthos starkly contrasts with the coloration of most conspecifics found in the broader Eastern Pa- cific, or even in the adjacent mouth of the Golfo Dulce, which evince nearly solid black pigmentation along the dorsum, breaking into spots or bands at the caudal end (Fig. 2A). H. platurus xanthos is also shorter in length, with an average adult TL of 49 cm, compared to about 60–75 cm for other H. platurus populations. Comparing our TL data for H. p. xanthos with those of Rubinoff et al. (1986) for H. platurus in the Gulf of Panama, note that the two samples do not even overlap, despite good sample sizes. The difference between the underlying distributions is significant with P < .01 (Wilcoxin Rank Sum Test, N1 = 15, N2 = 69, T1 = 1155). Behavioral differences are equally pronounced between H. platurus xanthos and its yellow-bellied conspecifics. Drift lines, which play a critical role in the natural history of the species, supporting aggregations for feeding, reproduction and transport, are not used by H. platurus xan- thos. Furthermore, while H. platurus feeds diurnally, stretched out in smooth water, H. platurus xanthos feeds at night, in turbulent water, assuming a sinusoidal ambush posture never previously reported for the species.

Habitat: marine.

Distribution: Pelamis platura is the most widely distributed species of all snakes and it is pelagic (Hecht et al., 1974).

Variation: Completely yellow and mottled variants have been described on this species from Costa Rica (Lillywhite 2014: 139). 
EtymologyFrom Greek xanthos, “yellow,” to highlight a diagnostic feature of this subspecies. 
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