American Oceans
Banded Sea Krait near coral reef underwater

Banded Sea Krait

The Banded Sea Krait, or Laticauda Colubrina, is a small species of sea snake that has some of the deadliest venom in the world.

Banded Sea Krait near coral reef underwater

While it spends much more time on land than most other sea snake species, it is an excellent swimmer seen coming in and out of tropical waters and coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific ocean.

Banded Sea Kraits use their deadly skills only for hunting large eels and are so docile that they won’t attack predators even if they feel threatened.

Read on to find out more about this fascinating creature!

Characteristics & Appearance

Banded Sea Kraits are also called Yellow-lipped Sea Kraits because of their recognizable yellow upper lip and snout.

Banded Sea Krait close shot lying in ambush

Still, there are many other interesting physical characteristics of this oceanic snake.

Weight & Length

The Banded Sea Krait’s body is approximately cylindrical, with a long, thin body.

Unlike most animals, female snakes are often much longer than males, which holds true for Kraits.

Long Banded Sea Snake swimming up the water

While the males are not usually longer than 875 mm, females can grow to well over a meter. They can weigh anywhere from 1 to 4 pounds.

Physical Characteristics & Color

The Banded Sea Krait is recognizable by its yellow snout and 20-65 black bands covering its gray or gray-blue body.

Banded Sea Krait portrait shot underwater

These bands are where the Krait gets the rest of its name, and they extend from the snake’s neck to the tip of its tail.

The Krait’s belly is usually lighter than its back and yellowish. The Sea Krait is, like all snakes, covered in scales.

These scales are larger than most other species of sea snake, and they overlap at the stomach.

Banded Sea Snake close head shot underwater

These scales differentiate between this species and the similar-looking New Caledonian Sea Krait, which has narrower scales that often do not meet.

Banded Sea Krait tails are paddle-shaped, making them well-adapted to swimming rather than slithering. The Krait is faster and more agile in the water than on land.

Lifespan & Reproduction

The exact lifespan of the Banded Sea Krait is unknown, although scientists estimate it’s about 20 years, based on lifespans of other kraits that have been more observed.  

Banded Sea Krait court mate on coral reef

This species is unique among many other sea snakes because it reproduces on land rather than at sea.

The breeding season happens each year during the warmer months of September through December.

Males gather in groups along the shoreline and shallow waters, waiting for females.

The male Sea Kraits usually compete to court the largest females because they produce larger and more offspring.

Banded Sea Krait male looks for a female

When a male detects a female, he will chase her to begin the courtship ritual.

Many males will pursue the same female and twine around her together, competing for her attention.

Once the female Krait has mated with her chosen male, she will lay roughly ten eggs per clutch.

This species is oviparous, laying eggs that develop outside the body. The female Krait lays her eggs in rocky crevices to grow and hatch.

Habitat

The Banded Sea Krait lives in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific. They have been observed as far west as India and as far south as New Zealand.

Banded Sea Krait on a tropical coral reef

However, they are most commonly found in waters off of New Guinea, Pacific islands, the Philippines, Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, and Japan.

This species is found only in warm and tropical waters and never far from land. Their fondness for islands in Oceania is due to the large and frequent coasts.   

Where Do Banded Sea Kraits Live?

Banded Sea Kraits are unique among sea snakes because they spend more time on land than in water.

Banded Sea Snake live underwater and land

In addition, they exhibit ‘homing’ behavior. Like sea turtles, these Kraits regularly return to the same stretch of beach to digest food, rest and reproduce.

Because of their propensity to frequently switch between land and water, Banded Sea Kraits usually hunt and swim in coral reefs and other areas with a mix of land and shallow water. 

Food & Diet

The Banded Sea Krait feeds almost exclusively on eels and uses its potent venom in hunting.

Banded Sea Snake eats eel on sand

It is a pure carnivore, and a skilled predator and hunter. It can be vulnerable while searching for food. 

What Do Banded Sea Kraits Eat?

Banded Sea Kraits primarily eat large eels but occasionally will trap smaller fish.

Unlike most other sea snake varieties, this species goes back on land to digest its food after hunting.

Kraits will use their venom to paralyze the larger eel and swallow it whole.

Banded sea snake Laticauda colubrina hunt underwater

These kraits are skilled enough to hunt alone and often do so. However, they may also hunt in groups, not only with each other but also with other species.

They sometimes team up with fish like giant trevallies and goatfish, where the kraits will flush the prey out from between rocks, and the fish will trap them.

Male and Female Kraits exhibit sexual dimorphism, where the larger females hunt in deeper water for bigger eels and the males in shallow waters for smaller moray eels.

Banded Sea Snake search small fish to prey

The larger females can survive at greater depths than males and have a more extensive hunting range.

Like all snakes, Banded Sea Kraits can open their mouths extremely wide. This means that while their eel prey is much larger than the Krait, they can still swallow it whole.

Larger females can kill and swallow prey as large as conger eels, which are 6 feet long, almost three times as long as the Krait!

Threats & Predators

Because they spend so much of their time on land, Banded Sea Kraits face both land and sea predators.

Banded Sea Snake threat eaten by sea creature

While not considered in any danger of extinction, these sea snakes are still at risk in various ways, from both humans and other animals.

Human Threats

While humans and Banded Sea Kraits usually interact peacefully, there are certain occasions where humans have killed Kraits.

Banded Sea Krait threatened by scuba diver underwater

Kraits are sometimes trapped in fishing nets or tarps targeting other species and can drown if they are trapped too long. Kraits can also die if they get trapped in boat exhaust pipes. 

Climate Change & Global Warming

Climate change is dangerous for all animals. Those living in Oceania are at greater risk because their environment is affected.

Banded Sea Krait breathe hot climate at surface

The Banded Sea Krait population is threatened by development, which destroys both their aquatic and land habitats. Much of this area is being developed for tourism and turned into aquaculture farms.

Predators

Banded Sea Kraits can be vulnerable to predators when they hunt because they cannot see approaching threats while their heads are inside crevices.

Banded Sea Krait escaping a predator

However, they can deter predators by fooling them into thinking their tails are their heads because the color and movement are similar. 

Other Threats

While most human interactions are peaceful, a small subset of Banded Sea Krait is hunted for skin and meat in the Philippines.

Banded Sea Krait hunted for skin and meat

The meat is then smoked and exported to Japan, used in Okinawan cuisine to make irabu soup.

Conservation Status

Despite their array of predators, Banded Sea Kraits are not considered endangered.

Since they are one of the most adaptable species of reptiles, they can change their habitat along with the changing planet.

Banded Sea Snake swimming at changed habitat

However, like all other animals, they will continue to be affected as climate change keeps destroying their habitat.

Fun Facts About Banded Sea Kraits

  • Banded Sea Krait venom is some of the most potent in the world, ten times deadlier than a rattlesnake.
  • Female Banded Sea Kraits can be three times as heavy as males, which means they can eat larger prey and swim in deeper waters.
  • Banded Sea Kraits have developed a unique diving adaptation where they grow their lungs once they are underwater.
  • Banded Sea Kraits can communicate by tongue flicking, both on land and in the water, just like their land-bound counterparts.
  • Banded Sea Kraits must return to land to digest their food because once they swallow an eel whole, they are too full to swim properly.

Add comment