Sexual divergence in diets and morphology in Fijian sea snakes Laticauda colubrina (Laticaudinae)

S. Shetty, R. Shine*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

63 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In the Fiji Islands, female yellow-lipped sea kraits (Laticauda colubrina) grow much larger than males, and have longer and wider heads than do conspecific males of the same body length. This morphological divergence is accompanied by (and may be adaptive to) a marked sex divergence in dietary habits. Adult female sea kraits feed primarily on large conger eels, and take only a single prey item per foraging bout. In contrast, adult males feed upon smaller moray eels, and frequently take multiple prey items. Prey size increases with snake body size in both males and females, but the sexes follow different trajectories in this respect. Female sea kraits consume larger eels relative to predator head size and body length than do males. Thus, the larger relative head size of female sea kraits is interpreted as an adaptation to consuming larger prey items. Our results are similar to those of previous studies on American water snakes (natricines) and Australian file snakes (acrochordids), indicating that similar patterns of sex divergence in dietary habits and feeding structures have evolved convergently in at least three separate lineages of aquatic snakes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-84
Number of pages8
JournalAustral Ecology
Volume27
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2002
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Convergent evolution
  • Dimorphism
  • Feeding habits
  • Fiji islands
  • Sea kraits

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