Venomous Sea Snakes?

Water snakes are venomous or not? It is about time to solve that dilemma.

Most sea snakes are venomous, and many of them highly. Sea snakes occur mainly in the warm tropical waters of the Indian Ocean and western Pacific Ocean, with a few species found well out into Oceania. The Atlantic, Caribbean and Red Sea have a slightly population of sea snakes.

The sea snakes have evolved from a family of Australian land snakes. Unlike eels, they have lungs, instead of gills, and need to come to the surface to breathe air. For that reason, sea snakes usually live in shallow waters where they swim about the bottom feeding on fish, fish eggs and eels. They have a huge left lung, though, that stretches over much of their body length, and allows them to stay underwater for a few hours. They may also swim up rivers and have been seen as far as 160 km from the sea.

Most sea snakes are venomous, and many of them highly. Even ‘dead’ specimens found at the beach should not be touched, because some species are known to feign death when stranded by the tide. Besides, some dead and even decapitated snakes can still administer a reflex bite.

They feed mostly on fish, which they swallow whole. This explains why sea snake venom is usually so toxic: it must kill quickly or else a thrashing fish could either escape or its sharp spines might poke a hole in the snake’s stomach.

Cases of envenomation by sea snakes are very rare, and encounters with humans are not very common. Most sea snake bites occur on trawlers, when the snakes are sometimes hauled in with the catch. Another reason of biting is that even those snakes entangled in a net don’t always try to bite. Indeed, most species are shy and far less aggressive than their land cousins, except maybe during the mating season, in winter, when divers can sometimes be bitten if they disturb nesting areas.

A high number of sea snakes have largely the potential to kill humans, they can hardly be considered as truly dangerous to man. Nevertheless, they should be treated with respect and left alone.

It is very important, that caution must be also taken in the instance of a bite: because of the small size of their fangs, bites are not extremely painful, at first, and might even go unnoticed. The first symptoms can appear only 30 minutes to a few hours after the bite. You need antivenin substitute. Call for Help!

 

Stay Alive!

 

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