First, sea snakes
are very shy and avoid contact with people. Eeven if they inflict a bite,
they will usually use a small amount of venom. In fact, it is used for
immobilizing prey and not for defense. Sea snakes are generally very small
and have short fangs incapable of causing much damage. However, to think
that a bite is a minor accident is a great misconception. Even the short
fangs (2.54.5 mm) can penetrate the skin so the poison will enter the
blood. It is said that sea snakes can open their mouths wide enough to
bite a man on the thigh. If provoked, the sea snake may become very aggressive
and persistent, especially during the mating season in the winter.
They are close relatives
to the cobra and are totally adapted to marine life: they have modified
lungs to help them maintain buoyancy and to remain underwater for a long
time. Sea snakes have specialized flattened tails for swimming and special
glands for disposing of excess salt. As they need to breathe air, they
usually inhabit shallow water feeding on fish, fish eggs and eels. Most
sea snakes live along the coasts and in the estuaries of Australia and
Asia. The pelagic sea snake Pelamis platurus has the greatest rangeit
can be found from the Pacific to Madagascar and the New World. It is occasionally
washed up on beaches after storms and may be dangerous to little children.
The sea kraits differ from the sea snakes in that they are egg-layers and
must come on shore for reproduction.
The bite of the sea snake
is painless. However, half an hour later the following symptoms appear:
stiffness, muscle aches and spasm of the jaw, pain in the bitten limb.
The powerful neurotoxins contained in the venom cause blurred vision, drowsiness
and respiratory paralysis.
The bite is treated with
sea snake antivenin. If it is not available, tiger snake antivenin or even
polyvalent antivenin may help.