Is This Deadly Sea Snake a Cobra Relative?

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Meet the Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake

In recent months, one of the deadliest sea snakes on the planet has been observed numerous times near the beaches of Costa Rica. It’s been spotted far more frequently than ever before. On some occasions, the ferocious Yellow-Bellied Sea snake was even seen swimming up close to surfers and swimmers. Several scary encounters were also reported to the local media. The Yellow-Bellied Sea snake is known for its powerful neurotoxic venom which it uses to hunt and paralyze fish. So far, there have never been any human fatalities recorded from bites by this unique sea snake, who is also known to be an old cousin of the Cobra…

His scientific name is Pelamis plature, but it’s better known as the Yellow-bellied sea snake or the Pelagic sea snake. It is usually found in tropical ocean waters, and is the only member of the Pelamis genus, which is related to the Elapidae, the famous Cobra Family. It is said to have evolved from the terrestrial Elapids approximately 10 million years ago. One factor in which he resembles the Cobras is his highly powerful venom, which yields 1.0-4.0 mg per bite. When bitten by a Yellow-bellied sea snake, the poor prey will usually suffer from neuromuscular paralysis and even direct kidney failure.

Is there an Anti-venom against the Yellow-bellied Sea Snake?

In Costa Rica for example, despite being very advanced in the research and production of various antivenin, you will not find anti-venom for the Pelamis plature. The reason is quite simple: No human has ever been bitten by this Cobra related Sea Snake. Following the frequent sightings of the snake along the beaches of Costa Rica, the authorities might be propelled to change the situation. However, the Australian Commonwealth Serum Laboratories ltd. in Melbourne does possess anti-venom that can neutralize the venom of the Pelamus plature.

Watch this strange video of the knotting and coiling behavior of a Yellow-bellied snake:

Fast Facts about The Yellow-bellied Snake

  •   The Pelamus plature has a narrow head and a compressed body, which reaches total lengths of up to 28 inch (72 cm) for males and 35 inch (88 cm) for females.
  •   Its color design will usually be black on the upper part and yellow on the lower belly part. In some cases there are black spots found on the yellow belly.
  •  It is pretty much helpless on land, and occasionally will form large groups of thousands of snakes in surface water.
  •  It does not have the ability to filter the salt of the seawater, so in order to drink, it will wait weeks or even months until it rains. It will then drink the rain water.
  •  It is very widely distributed, specially in the Pacific Ocean, and is actually the only sea snake that has reached the Hawaiian Islands. It has even been spotted along the beaches of New Zealand, where authorities in 2012 issued a warning to swimmers. They asked them not to be surprised if they spot a venomous snake swimming beside them, which is related to the notorious Cobras. However, the Yellow-belly snake, like other sea snakes, is not found in the Atlantic ocean, the Mediterranean, nor in the Red sea.
  •  It is completely pelagic and able to live and give birth in the ocean. It travels with surface ocean currents and hangs around drifting logs and seaweed, hunting the helpless fish that swim in the area. After biting a fish, it will devour it head first…
If you ever see or meet this snake while swimming, stay away! It will not hurt you if you do not bother him…

For more fast facts about Cobras click here.

For further discussion on snakes, scientific classifications, venom research and much more, check the resources available in “The New Encyclopedia of Snakes”, available on Amazon.com.

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“The New Encyclopedia of Snakes” 

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