The sea harbors many creatures that usually will not cause any danger to people unless they provoked on purpose. One such creature is the Belcher’s sea snake. This is known in the scientific world as Hydrophis belcheri.
Another name for this is the Faint-banded sea snake. Some people call this a hook-nosed sea snake, but it is actually not the same species. It is part of the species of snakes called Elapid sea snake. In general, this snake is usually very mild in temperament. It is not aggressive and will not attack anyone for no reason. However, if it is in danger because another creature is harming it, it will bite.
What happens to the fisherman is that if one of these snakes gets caught in a net, and the fisherman tries to free, it, it will bite the fisherman’s hand. The bite is small, but it is extremely venomous. If the bite gets through the glove and breaks the skin, the fisherman will be poisoned. However, among the people who get a bit, only about 25% actually get poisoned because a lot of times, there is not much venom in each bite.
Photo: Belcher’s Sea Snake
Belcher’s sea snake is not very long. It is only about 50 to 100cm long when it is mature. The body has a yellowish tone, with bands going across the body that is greenish in tone. It does not have a long head. These greenish bands cover the head as well. It has a small mouth. When the snake is not in the water, the skin just looks faintly yellow. The scales on the snake overlap each other, so this is not like how the scales look in other reptiles.
This snake is commonly found in the area of the Indian Ocean. In the Philippines, this is the Visayan area and Panay. It can also be found around New Guinea. Other areas include Australia, probably around Queensland or the North Territory, around the Timor Sea in the Ashmore Reef area. Divers around these areas are usually not in harm’s way if they encounter this snake because the snake is not aggressive. However, if a snake thinks that a human is trying to harm it, it will bite.
The tail of the snake helps it swim efficiently. The tail acts as a paddle. It spends practically all of its time in the water, so it is rarely seen on land. Its diet includes shellfish and other various fishes. Even though it does not spend time on land, it does breathe in air from the water. There are valves that are above the nostrils of the snake that stays closed when the snake is underwater. When the snake sleeps, it does not need to breathe for about seven-eight hours. This is also the case when the snake is hunting. It goes up the surface just to take in a breath of air quickly.
What happens if a person gets bitten? The bite does not really hurt that much because it is tiny, but the venom is what is harmful. Its LD50 toxicity in mice has been determined to be 0.24 mg/kg. The venom is a toxin that affects your nervous system. When it gets into your bloodstream, it will damage the nervous beginning with your legs. Then, as the venom travels through your blood, the poison will affect your stomach. When the venom reaches the lungs, the lungs will stop functioning and the victim will suffocate. However, as mentioned above, the snake will not attack until it is under severe treatment in the hands of others. When it senses that its life is in danger, it will bite.
Want to see a Belcher’s Sea Snake? Watch this video.
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