Friday, August 27, 2010

Yellowbelly Sea Snake

I confess, I just really like the name of today's animal. It reminds me of an insult a pirate would use. These snakes are also known as Pelagic Sea Snakes, but that's far less fun. Pelamis platurus is found in tropical and subtropical waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans. They are the most widespread of all the sea snakes, and as their second common name might suggest, they are capable of living in completely open sea, (pelagic zones) though they prefer coastal waters.

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Yellowbelly Sea Snakes are well adapted to their watery habitats. They still breathe air like any other reptile, but they are able to dive for very extended periods of time, sometimes up to 3.5 hours! These Snakes are also able to supplementary breathing through their skin, taking in oxygen at lower rates than when breathing normally, but overall the process assists with their dive times. They also have glands that remove excess salt and a paddle-like tail that helps them to move. All of these adaptation however, make them unsuited to land, and should they wash up on shore there can some trouble. Yellowbelly Sea Snakes still shed their skin like other snakes do, and in order to deal with this process they tie their body into a knot which they push downwards to the tail. This behavior is also used to remove barnacles and algae.

They are primarily diurnal creatures, and are carnivores. Yellowbelly Sea Snakes breed in open water when temperatures are above 20 degree C, and are ovoviviparous. They are very abundant and are not threatened or vulnerable. Oh, and have I mentioned that they are extremely venomous? The venom is actually stronger than that of a Cobra, but is administered in much smaller amounts. There have been no reported human fatalities.

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