6 of the Deadliest Sea Snakes

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Evolving from cobra’s, Sea Snake venom has adapted to be far more potent than their land ancestors, allowing them to instantly paralyze or kill their prey before it has a chance to swim away. Here are the 6 Deadliest Sea Snakes:

6. Yellow Bellied Sea Snake

The yellow bellied sea snake is one of the most widely distributed snakes in the world and have been spotted as far north as Russia and as far south as New Zealand. Although they tend to avoid cold water, a few have been spotted on the California coast during the drastic weather changes of el nino.

The yellow belly gets its name from its distinct yellow lower half of its body with a black or brown upper body. The snake does not have many predators and the bright yellow colors warn others  that it’s highly venomous. While most sea snakes tend to live near coasts and reefs, the yellow belly is not afraid to venture out into the open sea and can travel great distances.  It can swim both forwards and backwards with the ability to burst into speeds of 1 meter per second when hunting or fleeing.

Although humans are not likely to encounter a yellow belly in the wild, they can be washed ashore when injured or picked up in fishing nets. They are fairly docile, but may strike a human if being picked up or handled roughly. Their venom is highly toxic and causes muscle pain and stiffness, drooping eyelids, drowsiness, vomiting, paralysis and if not treated quickly, death.

5. Beaked Sea Snake

The Beaked Sea Snake, also known as the hook-nosed sea snake or common sea snake, can be found lurking at the bottom of murky waters in estuaries and river mouths of the eastern Indian ocean. They are commonly found in the coastal islands of India and have been spotted near the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, as far north as Vietnam, and as far south as Australia.

The snake has a small head with a plump olive green upper body with bluish bands and a white belly. It gets its name from from having a distinct beak-like snout which is slightly curved downward.

The beaked sea snake can dive as far as 100 meters, can remain underwater for up to five hours, and typically feeds on bottom lurkers such as catfish. Its venom 8 times as potent as a cobra and one bite has enough toxicity to potentially kill 22 humans.

4. Dubois’ Seasnake

The Dubois’ Seasnake, sometimes referred to the Reef Shallows snake, can be found lurking in the coral reefs of Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia. It’s color can range from salmon and beige to purpleish-brown with patterns of dark or cream bands and is typically just over a meter long. This snake is the most venomous of all sea snakes and the second most venomous snake on the planet, next to the Inland Taipain with an an LD50 of 0.044mg/kg. 

The snake can remain underwater for for up to two hours and is mostly active at dawn or dusk. It uses its surrounding to it’s advantage, hiding in seaweed and coral reefs before ambushing its prey. Algae and barnacles have been known to attach the snake providing extra camouflage, although eventually removed after the snake sheds its skin  every few weeks.

It’s diet consists of mostly small reef fish such as blennies, parrotfish, surgeonfish as well as moray eels.  The Duboi’s Sea Snake is mildly tempered and will only strike a diver if threatened or mishandled. 

3. Horned Sea Snake

A rapid assessment of the impacts of the Montara oil leak on birds, cetaceans and marine reptiles – Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Horned-sea-snake-Acalyptophis-peronii-that-was-found-dead-in-thick-oil-near-the_fig24_242543098 [accessed 30 Dec, 2019]

The Horned Sea Snake, also referred to as the Spiny-Headed Sea snake, is widely spread throughout the coast of Australia and Southeast Asia, but can also be found near in the waters of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. It is typically 1 and a half meters long with a small skinny head and fat plump body with beige white colors and patterns of black spots.

The snake gets its name having prominent spines at the top of its head while the rest of its scales are jagged and irregular, giving the snake a horny appearance throughout its body that becomes more prominent with age. Active mostly at night, the horned sea snake hunts for food by searching holes, burrows and crevices for prey, which it swallows head first.

While most sea snakes prey on a variety of small fish, an adult Horned Sea Snake feeds mainly on gobbies, while the young feed on shrimp. The horned Sea snake is known to be one of the most venomous sea snakes, although there have been no recorded bites on humans.

2. Banded Sea Krait

The Banded Sea Krait can be found in the tropical Western Pacific Seas and the Indian Ocean. The snake gets its name from having distinct black uniform stripes that cover its blueish gray body. It averages 35 inches in length, with a large paddle shaped tail adapted for water. The Banded Sea Krait’s venom is among some of the most toxic on earth and is 10X more potent than that of a rattlesnake. 

It is also well adapted for hunting in shallow waters and coral reefs, which it will use to its advantage in catching prey, which mostly consists of eel and small fish. Although it will usually hunt alone, Banded Sea Krait’s have also been known to cooperate together in large numbers as a hunting party. But unlike most other sea snakes, the Banded Sea Krait spends much of its time on land. It will often leave the sea to seek freshwater, digest food, rest, lay eggs, and shed its skin – all on land.

Because the snake frequents land so often, human encounters are far more common than other sea snakes. Fortunately, the snake is most always docile, even when provoked, and will very rarely bite a human. There is also a common myth that the snake’s mouth is too small to bite humans, which is simply untrue, as a few unlucky fisherman have experienced.

1. Belcher’s Sea Snake

The Belcher’s Sea Snake, sometimes referred to as the Faint-Banded Sea Snake, is the most venomous snake in the world. It is said that the snake’s venom is over 100 times that of a cobra, and just a few milligrams is capable of killing over 1,000 humans.

It can be found off the coasts of Northern Australia and Southeast Asia, and is commonly present in the Philippines, New Guinea, and the Gulf of Thailand.  The snake is moderate in size ranging from 20 to 40 inches in length. It has a fairly thin body that is typically yellow in color with dark green crossbands. And like most other sea snakes, it has a paddle-like tail, making it an excellent swimmer. It can hold its breath for up to 8 hours before it has to resurface for air and can travel for miles underwater. 

Fortunately for humans, the Belcher’s Sea Snake is quite docile and has even been said to be  actually quite friendly. They will almost never bite humans unless heavily provoked, and even when they do, it is estimated that about 3/4ths of all bites on humans are a dry bites, meaning the snake will usually not release venom when biting humans. But either way, it’s probably best to avoid something with venom strong kill a thousand men in a matter of minutes. 

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