Emydocephalus ijimae

Ijima's Turtleheaded Sea Snake

飯 島氏海蛇 (fan4dao3shi4hai3she2)

Status: Not protected


Elapidae, subfamily Hydrophiidae
Max. length
85 cm
Occurrence in Taiwan
Global Distribution
China, Taiwan, Philippines, Japan (Ryukyu Islands), Indonesia, Philippines and Moluccas, West Pacific Ocean from Japan in the north to Samoa in the south.
Small snake; total length up to 85 cm. There are 15-19 (17-19 at mid-body) rows of scales, which are smooth and imbricated, and there is a row of large hexagonal scales along the vertebral line. Head is small, cuboidal, and not distinct from neck; body is moderately stout and highly compressed laterally; tail is laterally compressed, sides with vertically elongated scales. Nostril (with a lid) faces upward. Eye is medium-sized. Fangs are degenerated. There are 2 prefrontals and no internasals or loreals. Head is black and marked with a cross band of yellow to orange anterior to eyes, extending backward and downward to the base of jaw. Body and tail are yellow to orange, encircled by black, wave-edged bands; the black band is slightly broader than or similar to the yellow-orange one in width. Anal scale is divided and subcaudals are paired.
Biology & Ecology
This diurnal snake inhabits coral reefs and rocky ocean floors. Females give birth to about 2 young in a litter.
It feeds exclusively on fish eggs: "With their reduced compliment of stiffened labial scales, they scrape the eggs off rocks, and also use the spike on the snout tip to dig eggs out of the substrate. Their jaw musculature is unique (probably because they employ suction to get the eggs into the mouth), and they have a strongly reduced dentition." (Source)
Emydocephalus: from the Greek emys = turtle, and cephale = head, referring to the unique head shape (in profile) of the species in this genus;
ijimae = in honour of Prof. Isao Ijima, Science College, Imperial University, Tokyo.
The Chinese name 飯島氏海蛇 (fan4dao3shi4hai3she2) means "Ijima's (飯島氏) Sea Snake (海蛇)".