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Northern Australian Sea Snake

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posted on Sep, 12 2005 @ 04:43 PM
At least 32 species of sea snake have been recorded in northern Australian waters and some species are also found in the southern waters off Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.
Sea snakes are readily identified by their flattened tails and valvular nostrils. They are, of course, excellent swimmers and divers, feeding on fish and eels. They shed their skins much more frequently than land snakes, as often as every two weeks.
The young are born alive at sea, except for those of the banded sea krait (Laticauda colubrina), which comes ashore to lay its eggs.
All sea snakes are venomous, and rhabdomyolysis is a major feature of sea snake envenomation, resulting in muscle pain, tenderness and sometimes spasm. Myoglobinuria develops after 3-6 hours. The bite itself is not particularly painful, and may go unnoticed, distinguishing it from envenomation by stinging fishes or jellyfish, both of which usually cause immediate and often excruciating pain. Envenomation may be treated with sea snake antivenom (based on the venom of the beaked sea snake, Enhydrina schistosa) or tiger snake antivenom. In the case of the latter, 2 ampoules should be given initially.

Sea snakes are amongst the most venomous snakes in the world, but little research has been done on these snakes or their venom. The Australian Venom Research Unit is undertaking a joint project with the Melbourne Aquarium to establish a reference collection of Australian sea snake venom and a sea snake genetic library. This unique resource will allow the analysis of intra- and inter- species variation in venom composition and gene construction. Such information will improve sea snake bite management, the knowledge of sea snake biodiversity, evolution and conservation status as well as potentially leading to the development of new disease treatments

Sea Snakes have developed anatomical features streamlined for adaptation to an aquatic environment. Evolutionary marvels living at sea, Sea Snakes must still surface to breath air unlike eels, underwater neighbors who share the same habitat, like the moray eel, who have gills for absorbing oxygen and are absent of any scales. Banded Sea Snakes evolved from land species into aquatic reptiles having smooth-scaled bodies easy to recognize in shades of light blue with black bands. Excellent swimmers and divers, there are over 70 species of Sea Snakes making them one of the most plentiful and widely disbursed family of poisonous reptiles in the world. Over 50 species are members of the family Hydrophiidae

Sea snakes are real, air-breathing snakes with forked tongues and body scales. They shed their skins, just like the land snakes that we are more familiar with. Sea snakes are not peculiar kinds of eels. Eels are fish with gills, while sea snakes are true reptiles with lungs.


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