7 Interesting Facts About Sea Snakes

Did you know that snakes don’t just exist on land? This blog is full of information about sea snakes and how interesting they truly are!

Oct 13, 2023By Nikita Hillier
facts sea snakes

There are many, many different types of these slithery creatures living and exploring out in the deep blue.

Not many people know that these little creatures exist, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to know about them! Sea snakes are actually very intricate and fascinating creatures, which is why people are finally giving them the spotlight they deserve. Let’s take a look at some interesting facts about sea snakes in the intriguing blog below!

7. They Breathe Differently Underwater

white and black sea snake underwater
Image Credit: Jong Marshes on Unsplash

While it may sound a little far-fetched, most species of sea snakes have actually evolved to not have to worry about breathing when underwater. They have incredibly interesting flaps that move over their nostrils when underwater. This means that they won’t breathe in any of the water they’re swimming in.

This also allows them to dive to extreme depths. Sea snakes have the capabilities to dive to depths of up to 800 feet or 250 meters. They will often follow prey as far down as they need to in order to secure their next meals.

Though, if possible, they do favor staying in the shallows nice and close to shore.

6. They’re Carnivores

yellow sea snake swimming in water
Image Credit: Osmar Dos Anjos on Unsplash

While different species will eat different things, most of the sea snake species choose to dine specifically on eels and fish. This makes them carnivorous creatures due to only eating meat. Some of them will also enjoy other ocean dwellers, such as crustaceans, mollusks, and prawns, when they are feeling extra hungry.

Many of the sea snakes that live in reefs have evolved in a way that allowed them to venture into tiny little holes and areas in order to grab their next snack. This is due to their thin necks, petite heads, and long, flexible bodies. It is a handy thing to be able to do as many delicious ocean creatures hide away in these areas.

5. There Are Around 70 Species Worldwide

white head sea snake in sea head out of water
Image Credit: Yuriy Vertikov on Unsplash

While it would be extremely rare for you to be able to see every single species of sea snake while diving, there are actually believed to be around 70 species globally. Scientists have worked to separate them into two categories. These categories are real sea snakes and kraits.

Sea kraits are snakes that live equally on land and in the sea. Real sea snakes, on the other hand, spend a large majority of their time in the water. These snakes only live in certain areas of the world, making them hard to discover if you’re not in those areas.

4. They Have Different Tails Than Normal Snakes

yellow and black sea snake with spotted tail
Image Credit: MSaldais on Pixabay

Sea snakes are pretty easy to tell apart from regular snakes that live on land. The ideal way to differentiate the two is by looking at the tail of a sea snake. Instead of a long, tapering, pointed tail tip, sea snakes have a flat, paddle-like tail. This tail allows them to glide through the water with ease.

However, on land, they are ever-so-slightly clumsier due to this tail shape. This is both a blessing and a curse for obvious reasons. Their tails can often be compared to that of a platypus due to their flat and wide build.

3. They Give Birth in the Ocean

striped sea snake swimming in coral reef
Image Credit: Emma Li on Pexels

Real sea snakes most commonly give birth to live snakes which live within an egg in the snake’s body up until birth. These snakes spend a large majority of time in the water which means they can’t give birth on land. Obviously, their eggs won’t incubate underwater, which is why they give birth to live offspring.

When they give birth, the snakes come out almost fully formed. Sea krait, on the other hand, will almost always move onto dry land to lay their eggs. Sea snakes also only live in subtropical and tropical waters. This means that they stick to areas within the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

They don’t live in the Caribbean Sea or the Atlantic Ocean. Sea snakes also have a very strong dislike for high salinity, which is why they also avoid the Red Sea.

2. They Are Great at Holding Their Breath

brown sea snake swimming on water
Image Credit: Serggucci on Pexels

Sea snakes obviously spend quite a lot of time underwater. Though, unlike many other sea creatures, they do need to breathe air from time to time. In order to survive, they must take in oxygen from the surface of the water from time to time after holding their breath for a long period of time.

Some will surface every half hour, while others can stay underwater, holding their breath for around eight hours. Another fun fact related to this is that sea snakes can absorb 33% of the oxygen they need via their skin. They also rid their body of carbon dioxide in the same way.

The lungs of a sea snake extend almost all the way down their bodies which provides a lot of positives for the species. They also have an in-built buoyancy control device, which furthers their ability to stay underwater.

The BCD allows snakes to move up and down while in the water. Isn’t that fascinating?

1. They Don’t Drink Saltwater

brown sea snake swimming in water over rocks

In this case, it really isn’t a case of “can’t”, it’s a case of “don’t”. While hunting and consuming prey, sea snakes more than reach their levels of required salt intake. They don’t drink salt water at all, only fresh water, as described above.

In fact, these fascinating creatures actually have specific glands that sit on the underside of their tongues. These glands work to push any salt out of the bloodstream and into the mouth. Any excess salt is expelled this way and then flicked out via the snake's tongue.

If sea snakes don’t find water in time, they can actually die from thirst. That sounds a little odd, right? Well, it turns out that they actually need access to fresh water in order to survive, which is not something they can get just from swimming around.

Most snakes will head out of the water and onto the land to find water. Others will drink the fresh rainfall off the top of the ocean when it begins to rain.

Nikita Hillier
By Nikita Hillier

Nikita is a huge animal lover who has grown up on a farm with many different animals, from dogs and cats to horses and cows! She has a lot of experience in the equine industry and is even in the process of studying for an internationally accredited Equine Sports Massage Certificate! In her spare time, she enjoys writing and spending time with her beloved animals!