Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake: A Guide to Identifying A Venomous Species

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The yellow-bellied sea snake belongs to the group of sea snakes called Elapidae, which is an ancient family of snakes. The first fossils were found in Texas, but it has since been determined that they are found all over the world, from Central America to Australia.

Sea snakes are typically dark green or brown with black markings on their backs that seem to look like bands. They are venomous but not as deadly as other types of snakes. Adult sea snakes measure anywhere between 1 and 3 feet long.

They can be dangerous if threatened or provoked, releasing their venom which can paralyze prey. These reptiles usually live along the shores and swim in the water to hunt for food. Sometimes, people mistake them for eels because of their.


Although venomous snakes are often taken for granted as part of the landscape, they are among the most dangerous animals on the planet.

In particular, the sea snake can be lethal to humans, with some species capable of administering a thousand times more venom than rattlesnakes, with comparable levels of fatal and nonfatal effects.

Accordingly, people should be on the alert for them, and especially should avoid handling or removing a sea snake from any location where there is a risk of its being present, and especially if it seems a little sluggish or unresponsive.

If you find a sea snake on land, you should avoid disturbing it, but you should note its location, leave it alone, and document it so that it can be studied.


The yellow-bellied sea snake is as wide as it is long and typically has yellow or olive-colored skin and an unplatified yellow, brown or blackish-brown belly with white bands.

It also has white bars on the outer rim of each eye (megacephalic bar) and a black stripe that runs from the base of the tail to the center of the tail (adipose line).

The scales on its upper body are scattered with small white spots and four black bands. The lower half of the tail (the caudal region) is yellow with an inward-pointing lateral black band.


A large specimen of this species reaches up to seven feet in total length (including the tail) and one of the longest living snakes in the world. However, even the average yellow-bellied sea snake may reach more than one foot in length.

Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake

Habitat and Diet

The yellow-bellied sea snake is found in tropical and subtropical waters of the Indo-Pacific and southeastern Pacific oceans.

It is the largest and second-largest sea snake species (not counting the Persian or Coral snake, Hydrophis persicus) in the world, as well as the longest species of snake in the world.

The average total length (including tail) is more than 4 m (13 ft) and the maximum total length (including tail) is more than 7 m (23 ft).

It is one of only three venomous species to occur in both of the two oceans that have tropical climates (the other two being coral snakes and green sea snakes).

It is an ambush predator that prefers to lie on the sea floor and wait for fish, crustaceans and worms to approach.


The female yellow-bellied sea snake lays eggs, although there is disagreement regarding the number of eggs produced.

Mating can be quite fierce, with males wielding large elongated gongs in the region of the cloaca where they are hypothesized to deliver sperm to a female. The male also bares his venomous fangs during mating.


Yellow-bellied sea snakes are most common around coral reefs, where they can be found on or near the ocean floor.

It was once thought that yellow-bellied sea snakes were mostly restricted to tropical areas, but this is no longer the case as yellow-bellied sea snakes are now found as far north as Michigan, Canada, and North Carolina, as well throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.

How does this snake reproduce?

Female yellow-bellied sea snakes spawn during the spring and summer; some males spawn during these times as well. The females lay between 7 and 18 eggs in shallow seawater, and when the eggs hatch, they get swept out to sea.

Female yellow-bellied sea snakes, even without parental care, can produce nearly 100 live hatchlings in their lifetime.

How is the venom of the yellow-bellied sea snake dangerous?

Yellow-bellied sea snakes are aggressive snakes with extreme venom. According to the CDC, “There is a concern that bites will have more severe effects than other sea snake bites, and they may require hospitalization and ICU admission for at least 72 hours.”

Does the yellow-bellied sea snake have any natural predators?

Yes, but they’re not the predators you may think.

Conservation Status

Species belonging to the Hydrophiinae are one of the three most species-rich subfamilies within the subclass Crotalinae, a group of constrictors within the family Colubridae.

More than 500 species are found worldwide, with many more species probably undescribed. The majority of species are found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, but some also occur in the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, and the Eastern Atlantic Ocean.

There are over 100 species occurring in the waters off the Australian coast, and 15 species occur in the waters off Antarctica.

Recovery Plans

It is estimated that only 25-35 percent of the original global population of this species is still alive, due to over-exploitation by commercial fishers and a loss of their habitat.

ection 6. Why is this snake so dangerous?

The yellow-bellied sea snake is capable of delivering an anticoagulant venom capable of damaging blood vessels and arteries. A single bite can result in death.

Even a small amount of venom can cause massive tissue damage and substantial blood loss. If you happen to be bitten, here are some facts:

A severe snakebite can affect any part of your body, but more commonly will affect the extremities, face, neck and chest.

The venom causes severe tissue damage, can block major blood vessels and cause organ failure.

The venom can cause excessive bleeding, so you might require extensive transfusions or may need to be in intensive care unit.

Fortunately, a yellow-bellied sea snake bite is not immediately life-threatening. If you receive first aid, the chances of surviving are excellent.


Like many of the best-loved animals on the planet, the yellow-bellied sea snake is legendary in legend and popular culture. In fact, it is so popular that it is even thought to have inspired Disney’s, King Kong.

However, at a time when our aquatic ecosystem faces serious environmental challenges, knowledge of a large snake’s population, distribution, and ecology is key to our success in both preventing and combating these threats.

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