The Ryukyu Archipelago represents the northern distribution limit for hydrophiine sea snakes, the largest group of marine reptiles. Ryukyuan sea snakes may have developed distinct local adaptations in morphology and ecology, but they have been poorly studied. We examined preserved specimens of 111 Hydrophismelanocephalusand 61 Hydrophis ornatusfrom the Ryukyu Archipelago to obtain data on morphology, diet, and reproduction. Sexual size dimorphism was detected in H. melanocephalus (mean ± standard deviation of adult snout-vent length: SVL, females 1062 ± 141 mm vs. males 959 ± 96 mm) but not in H. ornatus. Female H. melanocephalus had larger head widths and shorter tail lengths relative to SVL compared to males. Relative girth was low in neonates of both species (1.0–1.3), but increased in adults to about 1.7–2.6 in H. melanocephalus and 1.3–1.8 in female H. ornatus. Stomach contents of H. melanocephalus consisted of ophichthid and congrid eels, a sand diver, and gobies, whereas in H. ornatus, gobies and a goat fish were found. Litter size of three reproductive H. melanocephalus ranged from five to seven, and parturition seems to occur from August to October. Litter size of six H. ornatus ranged from two to seven, and was correlated with maternal SVL. Parturition in H. ornatus probably occurs around November. Different selective forces related to locomotion, feeding and predation risk, which influence the pregnant mother and neonates, may have resulted in having few, long but slender offspring that show positive allometric growth in hind-body girth.
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Vol. 38 • No. 5