Reptiles, Birds & Mammals

Clade Sauropsida

'Reptiles' including dinosaurs and birds.

Order Testudines: 'Turtles' and 'Tortoises'

Family Cheloniidae

(off the Lacepede Islands, Australia)

Chelonia mydas, 'Green Turtle'.  Widespread throughout the world's tropical and warm temperate seas.

Order Squamata: Lizards and Snakes

Family Elapidae

Subfamily Hydrophiinae: 'True Sea Snakes'

The 'true sea snakes' are purely marine animals, they can't crawl on land and are quite floppy when picked up (although you probably shouldn't pick them up). This distinguishes them from the 'Sea Kraits', usually classified in the different Subfamily Laticaudinae, which are slightly more amphibious and can crawl up on land to rest and digest.

(Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia)

Sea Snakes are mostly found across the tropical Indo-Pacific ocean. In my experience, they seem more common in the continental shelf waters in the Arafura and Timor seas off northern Australia. They are best seen on calm days when the water surface is slick and smooth. But you may have to wait for many hours on the deck of a ship to see one. But it is worth it to see something most people have never seen! 

Class Aves: Birds 

Order Procellariiformes

This order includes birds are the more common above the colder more nutrient-rich southern oceans, such as Albatross and the petrels. 

(On deck of Coral Adventurer, mid-west coast WA)

Ardenna pacifica, 'Wedge-tailed Shearwater', 'Muttonbird'. One of the more commonly seen and widespread of the shearwaters, being seen across tropical seas. 

Order Charadriiformes

Family Laridae: Terns and Gulls


Onychoprion anaethetus, 'Bridled Tern'.

Order Phaethontiformes

This order only contains one family.

Family Phaethonitidae: Tropicbirds


Phaethon lepturus, 'White-tailed Tropicbird'.


'White-tailed Tropicbird' in the surface of the water.

Order Suliformes/Phalacrocoraciformes

Family Fregatidae: Frigatebirds

Rio, Brazil

Fregata magnificens, 'Magnificent Frigatebird'.  Found around South and Central American ocean waters.

Class Mammalia

Cetacea: Whales and Dolphins

Parvorder Odontoceti : Toothed Whales

(Papua New Guinea)

Stenella longirostris, 'Spinner Dolphin'. This species probably includes many species; as the very least there are many distinct forms around the world. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, far away from land, I have seen very tiny forms of Spinner Dolphins.

'Bottlenose Dolphins'

The 'Bottlenose Dophin' is now usually considered to be three or even four different species. Two occur across larger areas of the tropics, with the larger 'Common Bottlenose' Tursiops truncatus, being more widespread and also found in deeper more open water. The closer they examine these two species, the less closely related they seem to be.

Tursiops aduncus, 'Inshore (Indo-Pacific) Bottlenose Dolphin'. Usually found in coastal waters, around the Indo-Pacific oceans. 

Parvorder Mysticeti : Baleen Whales

(Kimberley coast, Australia)

Megaptera novaeangliae, 'Humpback Whale'.

Back to the page on tropical open oceans

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