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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Beaked Sea Snake Enhydrina schistosa

Notoriously aggressive and readily provoked, this widespread species is responsible for nine out of every ten deaths from sea snake bites. Light gray with indistinct blue-gray bands, the beaked sea snake has a sharply pointed head, slender body, and paddlelike tail. Its fangs are less than in (4 mm) long, but its jaws can gape widely to accommodate large prey. The beaked sea snake feeds mainly on catfish and shrimp. swimming near the bottom in shallow, murky water, in coastal waters, mangrove swamps, estuaries, and rivers, locating its victims by smell and touch. Like all fish-eating snakes, it waits until its prey has stopped struggling, before turning it so that it can be consumed head-first.

Beaked sea snakes give birth to up to 30 young each time they breed, but their mortality is high, and only a small proportion of the young survive to become parents themselves. Despite their venom, these snakes are eaten by inshore predators, such as fish and estuarine crocodiles.

The Beaked Sea Snake's Deadly Venom

This snake’s bite contains enough venom to kill 50 people—about twice as many as the most venomous terrestrial snakes, such as the king cobra or death adder. Most of the beaked sea snake’s human victims are bitten when wading or fishing in muddy water, although no reliable records exist of the numbers killed every year. However, its deadly venom does not protect this snake from being caught in shrimp-trawling nets. This hazard affects many sea snakes, but the beaked sea snake is particularly susceptible because it lives in shallow water and eats shrimp.

Beaked Sea Snakezoom image
  • Order Squamata
  • Length 3–5 ft (1–1.5 m)
  • Weight Up to 4 lb (2 kg)
  • Habitat Shallow inshore waters
  • Distribution Indian Ocean and western Pacific, from Persian Gulf to northern Australia
Beaked Sea Snake habitat mapzoom image