Water snakes live in lakes, rivers, and ponds and are non-venomous, but sea snakes are another story. Sea snakes live in the ocean and most are highly venomous! Sea snakes are only in the Indian and Pacific Ocean, preferring the warm tropical waters. Although most Sea Snakes are more venomous than land snakes, the number of humans harmed by sea snakes is less due to the infrequency of contact with humans. Many live far out at sea and never have human contact at all. While most sea snakes are venomous, some are more potent and some deliver more venom per bite.
When it comes to deciding on the most venomous snakes it is difficult to assess exactly. Multiple sources claim different sea snakes as the most venomous, so be wary of that when it comes to ranking. What we do know is that these are 8 of the most venomous sea snakes in the world, not necessarily in order.
Olive-Headed Sea Snake
The olive-headed sea snake (or greater sea snake) is one of the most venomous snakes in the world. They can get to be 3 ½ feet long and are yellow to cream with dark brown bands. The head is an olive color, thus its name. They live in the west-central Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean. An interesting story out of New Caledonia involved snorkeling grandmothers that found a large group of greater sea snakes in a bay area that was popular with locals and tourists for swimming! The Grandmothers helped researchers take photos of the snakes and provide a more accurate count. There were hundreds more than thought!
Black-banded Sea Krait
Now onto a couple of different sea snakes, sea kraits are similar to sea snakes but they do spend some time on land. They will come ashore to eat at times and to lay eggs. In fact, they are pretty agile on land and can climb up the side of rock formations you wouldn’t think snakes could make it. Black-banded sea kraits are also sometimes called Chinese sea snakes or erabu (in Japan). These snakes are tan in color with a faint banding all the way down their bodies. They have the same paddle-like tail as other sea snakes.
Yellow-lipped Sea Krait
Also called Banded sea kraits or Columbine sea kraits, these snakes also have a paddle-like tail. Their coloration can be a deep blue to a blueish-gray with dark black banding. They get their name from the yellow markings on their face near their lips. Maybe the yellow serves as a warning because these snakes are highly venomous. When we think of their venom we are concerned about being bit, but they use their venom to subdue prey on a regular basis like eels and fish. Yellow-lipped sea kraits live in the Indo-Pacific Ocean.
Yellow-bellied Sea Snake
From lips to bellies, the Yellow-bellied Sea Snake is one of the most common sea snakes in the world. They are easy to recognize because they are all black on their back and, yes, you guessed it, have a yellow belly. But wait, there is more, they also have a unique paddle-shaped tail that is spotted black and yellow. Did you know they spend 90% of their lives underwater?
They can spend up to 90 minutes underwater which they use to hunt for food. Sea snakes do not live in and around the U.S. but in January of 2018, one washed up on shore in Newport Beach California. The 25-inch female yellow-bellied sea snake was still alive but clearly out of place. They do live further south off the coast of Baja California, Mexico but rarely make it this far north.
Stoke’s Sea Snake
The Stokes’s Sea snake made our list because they are known to be aggressive. Found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans these sea snakes they are also known to have some of the longest fangs of sea snakes. They can also get to be quite heavy and as long as 5 feet long. It gets its name from the first man to discover it, John Lort Stokes in 1846. Despite its highly toxic venom, there are no recorded deaths from bites from the Stoke’s Sea Snake.
Beaked Sea Snake
The next three Sea snakes have all been quoted as “The most venomous sea snake” over the years. The Beaked sea snake consistently has some of the most potent venom. They are also an aggressive snake and according to the Marine Education Society of Australia, “this widespread species is responsible for nine out of every ten deaths from sea-snake bites.” You can see why they are one of the most venomous snakes! These snakes are sometimes called Hook-nosed sea snakes due to their nostril that seems to have a hook or beak look. They can be found off the coast of India and surrounding islands.
Dubois Reef Sea Snake
The Dubois Reef sea snake lives around New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea and the northern shores of Australia. They have a base color of tan with faint markings in a net-like pattern. Although they have shorter fangs, they can deliver a very potent venom that has a venom yield of 0.43 mg. Some researchers have found that the venom of the Dubois Reef snakes falls just below two land snakes, the Inland taipan (#1) and Eastern brown snake (#2).
Faint-banded Sea Snake (Belcher’s Sea Snake)
The Faint-banded sea snake, or Belcher’s sea snake, shows up on the top of many lists due to their highly toxic venom. It is a mix of neurotoxins and myotoxins. Good thing they are not an aggressive snake and reported bites are extremely rare. The sea snake is named after Sir Edward Belcher who discovered the snake back in the mid-1800s. If you don’t live in New Guinea, Indonesia, the Philippians, the Solomon Islands, or Australia, you won’t encounter one. Sightings in these areas are even very rare. Good thing since they are definitely one of the most venomous snakes in the world!
What is the most venomous land snake?
Again there is some debate, but the Inland Taipan is the most venomous snake in the world.
Summary Of The 8 Most Venomous Sea Snakes In The World
|Olive-Headed Sea Snake
|Black-banded Sea Krait
|Yellow-lipped Sea Krait
|Yellow-bellied Sea Snake
|Stoke’s Sea Snake
|Beaked Sea Snake
|Dubois Reef Sea
|Faint-banded Sea Snake (Belcher’s Sea Snake)
Bonus: What Snakes Have Neurotoxic Venom?
Of the four types of venom common to venomous snakes–proteolytic, hemotoxic, cytotoxic, and neurotoxic–neurotoxic venom is the most deadly to humans. Multiple sea snakes deliver neurotoxic venom in their bites, which can cause muscle paralysis, damage to the brain, loss of consciousness, and even death. It stands to reason that we’d like to avoid snakes that deliver neurotoxic venom to their bite victims at all costs. Below are 10 types of snakes that have neurotoxic venom:
- Cobras–Types of cobras: King Cobra, Mozambique Spitting Cobra, Cape Cobra, Egyptian Cobra, Forest Cobra, Indian Cobra, and Philippian Cobra
- Kraits–Types of Kraits: Indian (Common) Krait, Banded Krait, Many-Banded Krait, Banded Sea Krait, and Malayan Krait
- Coral Snakes–Types of coral snakes: Eastern, Western, Central American, Texas, Caatinga, Mayan, Redtail, Painted, Southern, Argentinian, Aquatic, and South American
- Sea Snakes–Types of sea snakes: Beaked Sea Snake, Yellow-Bellied, Spiny-Headed, Northern Mangrove
- Black Mambas–Types of black mambas: Black Mamba, Western Green Mamba, Jameson’s Mamba, Eastern Green Mamba
- Mojave Rattlesnake
- Tiger Rattlesnake
- Neotropical Rattlesnake
- Timber Rattlesnake (some varieties in the Southeastern U.S.)
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Rich Carey/Shutterstock.com
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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What is considered the venomous sea snake in the world?
There is some debate, but the Inland Taipan is the most venomous snake in the world.
Where do you find sea snakes primarily?
Sea snakes are only in the Indian and Pacific Ocean, preferring the warm tropical waters.
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