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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Yellow-bellied Sea Snake Pelamis platurus

This boldly striped yellow-and-black snake has venom that is more toxic than that of a cobra. The yellow-bellied sea snake is also the world’s most wide-ranging snake and one of the very few that lives in the surface waters of the open ocean. Its distinctive colors warn that it is poisonous, protecting it from many predators. It feeds on small fish trying to shelter in its shade, swimming forward or backward with equal ease to grab them with its jaws. Although its fangs are tiny, its potent venom occasionally causes human fatalities.

At sea, yellow-bellied sea snakes may form vast flotillas hundreds of thousands strong, and after storms, they may be washed up on beaches that lie far outside their normal range. However, the species has never managed to colonize the Atlantic Ocean, because cold currents stand in its way. Yellow-bellied sea snakes give birth to up to six young each time they breed.

Yellow-bellied Sea Snakezoom image
  • Order Squamata
  • Length 3–5 ft (1–1.5 m)
  • Weight Up to 3 lb (1.5 kg)
  • Habitat Open water
  • Distribution Tropical and subtropical waters in Indian Ocean and Pacific
Yellow-bellied Sea Snake Habitat Mapzoom image