Banded Sea Snake (Laticauda colubrina)
Sea Snakes are
highly venomous marine reptiles inhabiting the warm tropical
waters of the world. Sea Snakes have
developed anatomical features streamlined for adaptation
to an aquatic environment. Evolutionary marvels living
at sea, Sea Snakes must still surface to breath air unlike
eels, underwater neighbors who share the same habitat,
like the moray eel, who have gills for absorbing oxygen
and are absent of any scales. Banded Sea Snakes evolved
from land species into aquatic reptiles having smooth-scaled
bodies easy to recognize in shades of light blue with black
bands. Excellent swimmers and divers, there are over 70
species of Sea Snakes making them one of the most plentiful
and widely disbursed family of poisonous reptiles in the
world. Over 50 species are members of the family Hydrophiidae.
Snakes in this family typically have laterally compressed
tails which they use like oars to propel themselves through
the water, valvular nostrils with valve-like flaps which
they close upon submersion, accompanied by total loss of
ventral plates. Because they must surface to breathe, Sea
Snakes are known to frequent the shallow ocean waters of
beautiful tropical coral reefs of the world.
TO SEE ANIMAL WEBCAMS
Tropical reefs, like Australia's Great
Barrier Reef is home to more than 22 varieties of Sea Snakes.
Banded Sea Snakes feed
primarily on the crabs, cuttlefish, eels, fish, fish eggs, and
squid commonly found in the shallows of the coral reefs and estuaries
surrounding coral reef habitats. Sea Snakes are not found in
the Atlantic Ocean or the waters of the Caribbean. Fish migrating
through the ocean waters are known to return to the shallow waters
of the sea to set up "baby fish nurseries". These oceanic
nurseries team with newborn life and fish eggs and are primary
feeding grounds for the world's Sea Snakes. As we move up the
food chain, these same ocean waters are also frequented by some
of the world's largest predators, including Hammerheads, Tiger
Sharks, Black-Tipped Reef Sharks and the Great
Although aquatic dwellers well adapted to navigate their marine
environment , Sea Snakes must surface periodically to breathe.
Sea Snakes can stay submerged for extended periods of time with
their left lung running almost the entire length of their bodies.
Banded Sea snakes do not have eyelids but rather modified scales
to protect their eyes. Sea Snakes shed their skin as often as
every 2 to 6 weeks. This frequent shedding of their skin, much
more often than land dwelling snakes, is nature's defense to
help rid the Sea Snakes of parasites which attach themselves
to the snake's body.
Sea Snake venom is Neurotoxic (affecting
the nervous system) classified in the group Proteroglypha and
(affecting skeletal muscles) with a fatal dose being about 1.5
milligrams. Most Sea Snakes produce an average of 10-15 mg of
venom so they should always be approached with caution as this
venom is 10x more lethal than the venom of the landbased Rattlesnake or Africa's deadly Black Mamba.
Even a dead or decapitated Sea Snake is capable of delivering
a bite reflex strike capable of
producing a life threatening envenomation. Sea Snake Antivenom is available for snake
bite victims or Tiger
may be used as a substitute. A word of caution - a Sea Snake
bite may sometimes go unnoticed due to the small size of their
fangs. Sea Snakes have Fixed
Front Fangs with venom designed
to immobilize prey and does not produce the immediate "sting" and
excruitiating pain immediately following the sting of a Jellyfish,
or encounter with the deadly Blue-Ringed Octopus, a Lionfish,
Reef Stonefish (the most venomous fish in the world), Scorpionfish,
Sea Urchin, or a barb strike from the tail of a Stringray.
Although highly venomous, most Sea Snakes
have a placid disposition. These cold-blooded sea reptiles
are direct descendents of land
dwelling snakes classified in the family Elapids. One now distant
and highly venomous land relative in the family Elapidae is the
Cobra. It is estimated that 75-80% of Sea Snake bites are "blank" non-productive
bites meaning envenomation does not occur. Although known to
be non-aggressive, except during mating season, only a few Sea
Snake attacks on humans resulting in death have been recorded
on divers who have disturbed nesting areas. Sea Snakes have a
reputation for being very curious and have a fixation for any
elongated floating object such as the air hoses of deep sea divers
or even a snorkeler's fin. Most Sea Snake bites are recorded
when fisherman fall victim to Sea Snake bites while untangling
their fishing net catches. Sea Snakes also present a high degree
of danger to humans particularly after tropical storms when they
are washed ashore becoming virtually helpless to move and extremely
dangerous alive or dead.
Viviparous, Sea Snakes bear live young offspring at sea after
an extended gestation period anywhere from 4 to 11 months. Young
Sea Snakes are independent at birth swimming immediately away
from their mother. Only one species, the Banded
Sea Krait - Laticauda
colubrina is still equipped with ventral plates to navigate on
land, and this species comes ashore to lay eggs. Males have two
penises, named hemipenes, with only one used at each mating.
Common Name: Banded Sea Snake
Scientific Name: Laticauda colubrina
Snake Family: Elapidae
Sub-Family: Hydrophiinae ("true" Sea Snakes)
Description: Shades of Light Blue with Black bands that look like black rings
running the full length of their bodies.
Characteristics: Not known to be aggressive but will defend themselves when
Reproduction: Viviparous (bearing live young) and breed from spring to fall
giving birth to as many as 14 young from late summer to early fall.
Length: 75-200 centimeters (Approx. 2.5-6.5 ft)
Habitat Distribution: Common in oceanic coastal waters of Australia, New Guinea,
Pacific Islands, the Philippines, Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, Japan. Absent
in the Atlantic Ocean, and the Caribbean north of Baja.
Subspecies - There are Five (5) major groups of Sea Snakes:
Hydrophiids: True Sea Snakes (54 Species) evolving 30 million years ago from
terrestrial Elapids with Fixed Front Fangs.
Laticaudids: Sea Kraits (5 Species) four of which are marine. Strongly banded,
common in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.
Acrochordids: File Snakes (3 Species). Only one species is fully marine. Non-Venomous
giving birth to live young.
Homalopsids: Mangrove Snakes evolved from the Colubridae family. Venomous but
rear-fanged found in tropical Asian and northern Australian waters.
Natricids: Salt Marsh Snakes (3 Species) also evolved from the Colubridae family.
Not venomous and confined to salt marsh environments in temperate and sub-tropical