Aipysurus foliosquama Smith, 1926:22

Leaf-scaled sea snake



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Synonym/s: Smithsohydrophis foliosquama (Smith, 1926:22)



According to the dichotomous key provided by (Rasmussen, 2001), the Leaf-scaled sea snake (Aipysurus foliosquama) exhibits the following unique combination of characters:

* "Less than 180 ventral scales"
* "Ventrals with a deep notch at posterior border"
* "At least 19 scale rows around midbody; prefrontal scales present"


Conservation Status

Last record: 1994 (Ashmore Reef; Lukoschek et al. 2013); 2000 (Hibernia Reef?; A. Lane, pers. comm. August 2011)

Rediscovered in 2010 (Lukoschek et al., 2013)

IUCN RedList status: Critically Endangered


Historically recorded from Ashmore and Hibernia reefs (Smith, 1926; Minton & Heatwole, 1975; Cogger, 2000; Guinea & Whiting, 2005), from where it has not been recorded since 2000 (A. Lane, pers. comm. August 2011). A dead specimen was collected on Barrow Island in 2010 and accessioned in the WA Museum (Lukoschek et al. 2013:200). This potentially constitutes a major range extension of the species since while A. foliosquama has previously been found elsewhere in northern Australian waters (Shuntov, 1972; Cogger, 2000), these are believed to be waifs/vagrants and not indicative of another population (Lukoschek & Guinea, 2010). This individual was found at least 10 years after the last record (the literature conflicts slightly), and the approximate longevity of this species is 8-10 years (Ibid.), making it unlikely that the 2010 specimen belonged to either the Ashmore or Hibernia reef populations (given the lack of records for c.10 years despite multiple methodologically appropriate surveys).



Ashmore and Hibernia Reefs, Australia (northern)


Biology & Ecology

"Ecology: aquatic, diurnal, nektonic, predator, inshore; perennially active, viviparous, piscivore, coral reefs."

(Cogger et al., 1983:243)



Holotype: BMNH 1946.1.1.96 (Cogger et al., 1983:243)

Type locality: "Ashmore Reefs, Australia" (Cogger et al., 1983:243)


Other specimens:

MCZ 23492

MCZ 23493

MCZ 23494

MCZ 23496

WAM R150365 (Barrow Island specimen; [url=]source[/url])

A possible specimen can be seen [url=]here[/url].

A photograph of a specimen can be seen here:





Original scientific description:

Smith, Malcolm A. (1926). Monograph of the Sea Snakes (Hydrophiidae). In: British Museum Natural History. London: British Museum (Natural History). xvii + 130 pp.


Other references:

Aplin, K. P. and Smith, L. A. (2001). Checklist of the frogs and reptiles of Westem Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement No. 63: 51-74.

Clayton, M., Wombey, J.C., Mason, I.J., Chesser, R.T. & Wells, A. 2006. CSIRO List of Australian Vertebrates: A Reference with Conservation Status. Melbourne : CSIRO Publishing iv 162 pp.

Cogger, H.G. 1975. The sea snakes of Australia and New Guinea. pp. 59-139 in Dunson, W. (ed.). The Biology of Sea Snakes. Baltimore : University Park Press.

Cogger, Hal G. (2000). Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia. New Holland Publishers, Sydney.

D'Anastasi, B. R., van Herwerden, L., Hobbs, J. A., Simpfendorfer, C. A. and Lukoschek, V. (2016). New range and habitat records for threatened Australian sea snakes raise challenges for conservation. Biological Conservation 194: 66-70. [Abstract]

Department of the Environment. (2014). Aipysurus foliosquama in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Sun, 13 Apr 2014 21:39:18 +1000.

Elfes, Cristiane T. et al. (2013). Fascinating and forgotten: the conservation status of marine elapid snakes. Herpetological Conservation and Biology 8(1): 37-52.

Guinea, M. L. (2007). Sea snakes of Ashmore Reef, Hibernia Reef and Cartier Island with comments on Scott Reef. DEWR Final Report Survey 2007.

Guinea, M. L. and Whiting, S. D. (2005). Insights into the distribution and abundance of sea snakes at Ashmore Reef. The Beagle Supplement 1: 199-205.

Heatwole, H. 1975. Predation on sea snakes. pp. 233-249 in Dunson, W. (ed.). The Biology of Sea Snakes. Baltimore : University Park Press.

Heatwole, H., Minton, S.A., Taylor, R. & Taylor, V. (1978). Underwater observations on sea snake behaviour. Australian Museum Records 31(18): 737-761.

Holmes, Branden. (2021). What's Lost and What Remains: The Sixth Extinction in 100 Accounts (eBook). Self published.

Lukoschek, Vimoksalehi, Beger, Maria et al. (2013). Enigmatic declines of Australia’s sea snakes from a biodiversity hotspot. Biological Conservation 166: 191-202.

Lukoschek, V. and Guinea, M. (2009). Aipysurus foliosquama. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.1. ( Downloaded on 11 September 2011.

Minton, S. A. and Heatwole, H. (1975). Sea Snakes from Reefs of the Sahul Shelf, pp. 141-144. In: Dunson, W. A. (Ed.). The Biology of Sea Snakes. Baltimore: University Park Press.

Rasmussen, A. R. (2001). Sea snakes, pp. 3987-4000. In: Carpenter, K. E. and Niem, V. H. (eds.). Living Marine resources of the Western central Pacific. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization.

Rasmussen, Arne Redsted, Sanders, Kate Laura, Guinea, Michael L. and Amey, Andrew P. (2014). Sea snakes in Australian waters (Serpentes: subfamilies Hydrophiinae and Laticaudinae)—a review with an updated identification key. Zootaxa 3869(4): 351-371.

Regalado, Pedro Galán. (2015). Los Anfibios y Reptiles Extinguidos: Herpetofauna Desaparecida Desde el Año 1500. Monografías de la Universidade da Coruña 155: 1-509.

Sanders, K. L., Schroeder, T., Guinea, M. L. and Rasmussen, A. R. (2015). Molecules and Morphology Reveal Overlooked Populations of Two Presumed Extinct Australian Sea Snakes (Aipysurus: Hydrophiinae). PLoS ONE 10(2): e0115679.

Shuntov, V. P. (1972). Sea snakes of the North Australian Shelf. Translation of 1971 paper by Consultants Bureau, New York. Ekologiya 4: 65-72.



Dr. Amanda Lane assisted with information about the conservation status of this species.


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