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"Head for my tail": a new hypothesis to explain how venomous sea snakes avoid becoming prey
The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Conservation, Copenhagen.
Kristianstad University, School of Education and Environment. (Akvatisk biologi och kemi)
2009 (English)In: Marine Ecolocy, ISSN 0173-9565, E-ISSN 1439-0485, Vol. 30, no 4, 385-390 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Sea snakes are widespread and conspicuous inhabitants of shallow waters in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. They are agile top predators and possess extremely potent venom, but they are still susceptible to predation by large fish, e.g. sharks, and other vertebrates. We describe how crevice-probing and temporarily non-vigilant Yellow-lipped Sea Kraits Laticauda colubrina twist the tail around their length axis so that the tail tip's lateral aspect corresponds to the dorsal view of the head. In doing so, coloration and pattern in combination with tail movement and posture make the tail appear very similar to the (non-visible and foraging) head. We examined 98 Laticauda spp. sea snakes in three major museum collections and reviewed the literature to assess the generality and implications of our field observations. This leads us to hypothesize that a combination of: (i) head and tail being similarly coloured and patterned, and (ii) the tail being motioned to resemble the head, is a hitherto overlooked mimetic and 'prophylactic' anti-predator adaptation in the L. colubrina complex, and possibly in other species of sea snake. We propose this is a concerted behavioural–morphological adaptation, and we briefly speculate about its possible fitness trade-offs as well as its origin. Explicit and testable predictions derived from the hypothesis are presented.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 30, no 4, 385-390 p.
Keyword [en]
Foraging, Laticauda colubrina, mimetic behaviour, morphology, phylogeny, Yellow-lipped Sea Krait
National Category
Biological Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hkr:diva-5457DOI: 10.1111/j.1439-0485.2009.00318.xISI: 000272131100001OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hkr-5457DiVA: diva2:280334
Available from: 2009-12-09 Created: 2009-12-09 Last updated: 2014-08-01Bibliographically approved

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Elmberg, Johan
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CiteExportLink to record
Permanent link

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Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
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  • asciidoc
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