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Hydrophis melanocephalus GRAY, 1849

IUCN Red List - Hydrophis melanocephalus - Data Deficient, DD

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Higher TaxaElapidae (Hydrophiinae), Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Slender-necked Seasnake
Chinese: 黑头海蛇 
SynonymHydrophis spiralis melanocephalus GRAY 1849
Hydrophis sublaevis var. Melanocephala GRAY 1849: 53 (part.)
Hydrophis melanocephalus — BOULENGER 1896
Disteira orientalis STEJNEGER 1901: 191
Microcephalophis melanocephalus — STEJNEGER 1898: 224
Disteira melanocephala — STEJNEGER 1907: 421
Hydrophis melanocephalus — COGGER 1983: 252
Leioselasma melanocephala — KHARIN 1984: 1537
Leioselasma melanocephala — WELCH 1994: 71
Leioselasma melanocephala — KHARIN 2005
Hydrophis melanocephalus — NGUYEN et al. 2009
Hydrophis melanocephala — RASMUSSEN et al. 2011
Hydrophis melanocephalus — SANDERS et al. 2013 [by implication]
Leioselasma melanocephala — WALLACH et al. 2014: 367
Hydrophis melanocephalus — WANG et al. 2022
Hydrophis melanocephalus — PARK et al. 2022 
DistributionSouth Chinese Sea (China: Guangxi, Fujian), Vietnam,
Japan (Ryukyu, Hokkaido, Kochi)
Coasts of Taiwan and Guangdong northward to Zhejiang (China), Korea, Philippines

Type locality: Indian Ocean (type series from Indian Ocean and Madras, India) [of lectotype].  
TypesLectotype: BMNH 1946.1.9.22, designated by Cogger 1983.
Holotype: ZUMT (also as TIU) 29 from Okinawa Shima, Japan, fide Smith (1926) [Disteira orientalis]. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: Head small, body slender anteriorly. Scale rows around neck 23–27; scale rows around body 33–41; ventrals 289–358. Maxillary teeth behind fangs 6–8. Colouration: Body greyish yellow above, yellowish or white below, with 40–55 black bands, about as broad as their interspaces, usually broadest above and below. Head blackish, sometimes with yellow spots.

Sexual size dimorphism: females 1062 ± 141 mm vs. males 959 ± 96 mm. Female H. melanocephalus had larger head widths and shorter tail lengths relative to SVL compared to males (Fujishima et al. 2021). 

Synonymy partly after COGGER 1983. Not listed by COGGER 2000.

Similar species: Hydrophis melanocephalus has been confused with Laticauda semifasciata in Korean waters and the former may not occur there (Kim et al. 2016).

Habitat: marine.

Distribution: has been reported from Australia (North Territory?, West Australia), New Guinea but not mentioned for these areas by RASMUSSEN et al. 2011. 
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  • Fujishima, Kanta; Takahide Sasai, Yusuke Hibino & Hideaki Nishizawa 2021. Morphology, Diet, and Reproduction of Coastal Hydrophis Sea Snakes (Elapidae: Hydrophiinae) at Their Northern Distribution Limit. Zoological Science Oct 2021 Vol. 38, No. 5: 405-415 - get paper here
  • Goris, R.C. & Maeda, N. 2004. Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Japan. Krieger, Malabar, 285 pp.
  • Gray, J. E. 1849. Catalogue of the specimens of snakes in the collection of the British Museum. Edward Newman, London, i-xv; 1-125. - 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. 2006. An Annotated Checklist of Sea Snakes of Vietnam, with Notes on a New Record of the Yellow-Lipped Sea Krait, Laticauda colubrina (Schneider, 1799)(Laticaudidae, Hydrophiidae). Russian Journal of Marine Biology 32 (4): 223–228. - get paper here
  • 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
  • Kharin, V.E. 2009. Redescription of a Russian Finding of the Erabu Sea Krait Pseudolaticauda semifasciata (Reinwardt in Schlegel, 1837), with Remarks about Species Composition of Sea Snakes (Serpentes: Laticaudidae, Hydrophiidae) in Russian and Adjacent Waters. Russian Journal of Marine Biology 35 (1): 8–14 - get paper here
  • Kharin, Vladimir E.; Jakob Hallermann 2009. Annotated catalogue of sea kraits (Laticaudidae) and sea snakes (Hydrophiidae) of the herpetological collection of the Zoological Museum, University of Hamburg. Mitt. hamb. zool. Mus. Inst. 106: 51-67
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  • 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
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  • 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
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  • Wang, Kai; Jinlong Ren, Hongman Chen, Zhitong Lyu, Xianguang Guo Ke Jiang, Jinmin Chen, Jiatang Li, Peng Guo, Yingyong Wang, Jing Che 2020. The updated checklists of amphibians and reptiles of China. Biodiversity Science 28 (2): 189-218 - get paper here
  • 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
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