All at sea: aquatic life modifies mate-recognition modalities in sea snakes (Emydocephalus annulatus, Hydrophiidae)

  title={All at sea: aquatic life modifies mate-recognition modalities in sea snakes (Emydocephalus annulatus, Hydrophiidae)},
  author={Richard Shine},
  journal={Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology},
  • R. Shine
  • Published 13 January 2005
  • Environmental Science, Biology
  • Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Alternative sensory modalities (e.g. vision, chemoreception) differ in the spatial scale, permanence and reliability of cues they provide to mate-searching males. Males of terrestrial snake species use chemoreception to locate females over large distances, but phylogenetic shifts to aquatic life render such cues unavailable. Do male sea snakes use alternative modalities for identifying potential sexual partners and if so, are the novel systems as effective for mate-finding as the ancestral ones… 

The sex life aquatic: sexually dimorphic scale mechanoreceptors and tactile courtship in a sea snake Emydocephalus annulatus (Elapidae: Hydrophiinae)

Ulastructural data indicates that the rostral spine is comprised of thickened epidermal and dermal layers, similar to rugosities on the body, and likely provide stimulation to the female during prodding by the male, and somatosensory feedback for cloacal alignment.

Sexual dimorphism in scale rugosity in sea snakes (Hydrophiidae)

The transition from terrestrial to aquatic life in proteroglyphous snakes has been accompanied both by an increase in overall rugosity, and by a seasonally labile sex-specific elaboration of this trait.

The evolution of scale sensilla in the transition from land to sea in elapid snakes

Assessment of morphological variation in sensilla on the postocular head scale(s) across four terrestrial, 13 fully aquatic and two semi-aquatic species of elapids represents the first analysis of the evolution of sensilla in the transition from terrestrial to marine habitats.

Mate location tactics in garter snakes: effects of rival males, interrupted trails and non‐pheromonal cues

Incorporating additional cues and broader spatial scales can clarify aspects of trail-following behaviour not evident from studies in small, highly simplified laboratory situations.

The Adaptive Significance of Sexually Dimorphic Scale Rugosity in Sea Snakes

Alternative hypotheses about the function of rugose scales in males of the turtle‐headed sea snake (Emydocephalus annulatus) are posed and test and it is concluded that multiple selective forces have been involved.

Synchrony in capture dates suggests cryptic social organization in sea snakes (Emydocephalus annulatus, Hydrophiidae)

Analysis rejects non-social interpretations of data from mark-recapture studies, suggesting instead that many individual sea snakes belong to 'social' groups that consistently move about together.

Life history traits of the sea snake Emydocephalus annulatus, based on a 17-yr study

Despite their relatively recent evolutionary origin, hydrophiine sea snakes are remarkably diverse in life histories as well as in morphologies and diets, and even closely related taxa may differ substantially in their vulnerability to threatening processes.

How Snakes Find Prey Underwater: Sea Snakes Use Visual and Chemical Cues for Foraging

These findings indicate that Hydrophis snakes find prey in water as follows: they use visual cues to locate a place where their prey fishes are likely to hide, and then use chemical cues to find and attack prey.

Mistaken identity may explain why male sea snakes (Aipysurus laevis, Elapidae, Hydrophiinae) “attack” scuba divers

It is suggested that “attacks” by sea snakes on humans result from mistaken identity during sexual interactions, and divers that flee from snakes may inadvertently mimic the responses of female snakes to courtship, encouraging males to give chase.



Intraspecific habitat partitioning by the sea snake Emydocephalus annulatus (Serpentes, Hydrophiidae): the effects of sex, body size, and colour pattern

Habitat use in this population of sea snakes in New Caledonia is affected by a snake's body size and sex, but not by colour, and the effects of colour morph on operative temperatures of physical models disappeared under water.

Conspecific trailing behaviour of red-sided garter snakes, Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis, in the natural environment

The results suggest that adult garter snakes use pheromone trails for locating potential mates during the breeding season and most likely rely on other mechanisms (e.g. visual cues) for navigation to overwintering hibernacula.

Feeding Strategies in Marine Snakes: An Analysis of Evolutionary, Morphological, Behavioral and Ecological Relationships

Analysis of 1,063 stomach contents from 39 species of sea snakes indicates that about one-third of the shallow, warm, marine, Indo-Australian fish families are preyed upon by sea snakes. Families of


Sea kraits on a small Fijian island during the mating season in two successive years showed that larger females attracted more intense courtship than did smaller animals, and larger body size did not enhance male reproductive success.

Aquatic and terrestrial locomotor speeds of amphibious sea-snakes (Serpentes, Laticaudidae)

The diversity of locomotor abilities within laticaudid sea-snakes provides a remarkable opportunity to identify factors that influence evolutionary trade-offs between conflicting evolutionary optima.

Courting male garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis) use multiple cues to identify potential mates

A male snake's "decision" whom to court depends not only on visual and thermal as well as chemical cues, but also on the male's own preferences and on subtle differences among potential sexual "targets".

Bat Predation and Sexual Advertisement in a Neotropical Anuran

The role of predation in the evolution of the vocal repertoire of the frog Physalaetnus pustulosus is investigated and the hypothesis that male P. pustULostus that produce calls more attractive to females are also more prone to predation by T. cirrhosis is tested.

Variation in a Female Sexual Attractiveness Pheromone Controls Male Mate Choice in Garter Snakes

The results of this study suggest that male red-sided garter snakes utilize compositional variation in the female sexual attractiveness pheromone to differentiate among potential mates of varying size.

Species specificity of sex pheromone trails in the plains garter snake, Tchamnophis radix

One explanation for the occurrence of pheromone specificity in these two allopatric Thamnophis would be that in the recent past T. radix and T. marcianus were sympatric, consistent with current knowledge concerning the evolution of these species.


  • R. Shine
  • Biology, Environmental Science
    Evolution; international journal of organic evolution
  • 1988
The hypothesis based on locomotory impairment of gravid females has better empirical support than any alternative hypothesis, as it successfully predicts modifications in the position of the clutch within the female's body, as well as overall reduced reproductive investment.