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Shaw's Sea Snake facts for kids

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Shaw's Sea Snake
Conservation status
Scientific classification

Hydrophis curtus, also known as Shaw's Sea Snake, short sea snake, but often includes Hydrophis hardwickii is a species of sea snake. Like all Hydrophiinae sea snakes, it is a viviparous, fully marine, and front fanged elapid that is highly venomous. It is collected for a variety of purposes including human and animal food, for medicinal purposes and for their skin.


This species is characterized by a wide variation in number of ventral scales and degree of parietal scale fragmentation. Both sexes possess spiny scales along their bodies but males have more highly developed spines. This sexual dimorphism in spines may play a role in courtship or in locomotion by reducing drag.


It is a widely distributed species and like most sea snakes is restricted to warmer, tropical waters. Its range includes:

  • Persian Gulf (Oman, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Iran)
  • Indian Ocean (Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India)
  • South China Sea north to the coasts of Fujian and Shandong
  • Strait of Taiwan
  • Indoaustralian Archipelago
  • North coast of Australia (North Territory, Queensland, West Australia)
  • Philippines (Panay, etc.)
  • Pacific Ocean (Myanmar (= Burma), Thailand, Indonesia, China, Japan, New Guinea)


Originally considered to be two species of the genus Hydrophis: Hydrophis curtus and Hydrophis hardwickii. Gritis and Voris (1990) examined the morphological variation of over 1,400 specimens across its geographic range and concluded it is most likely a single species. As is convention, the species name reverts to the first description by Shaw in 1802. DNA and morphological analysis restored its phylogenic status as a single species. An analysis of the population in 2014 found strong evidence of deep divergence and genetic isolation across the geographical range, supporting a division of the species to Indian Ocean and West Pacific groups and high likelihood of cryptic taxa within those groups.

Hydrodynamic sense

They have corpuscles (scale sensillae) concentrated on the front of their head which may be a hydrodynamic receptor. A study measuring brain response to water vibration found that L. curtus is sensitive to low amplitude (100–150 Hz) water motions. Sensing water motion is useful in locating prey, predators, or potential mates and has been demonstrated in other aquatic animals (e.g. lateral line in fish, whiskers in harbour seals).

  • Anderson, J. 1871 A list of the reptilian accession to the Indian Museum, Calcutta, from 1865 to 1870, with a description of some new species. J. Asiat. Soc. Bengal, Calcutta, 40, part 11(1): 12-39.
  • Rasmussen, A. R. & I. Ineich 2000 Sea snakes of New Caledonia and surrounding waters (Serpentes: Elapidae): first report on the occurrence of Lapemis curtus and description of new species from the genus Hydrophis. Hamadryad, 25(2): 91-99.
  • The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (
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