53 Meticulous Belcher’s Sea Snake Facts – Beware!

by Sankalan Baidya
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belcher's sea snake facts

In case you are looking for Belcher’s Sea Snake facts, this article is not going to disappoint you. So, what can you expect out of this article?

Here is what you can expect: details about the snake like its classification, physical description, distribution etc. That is the norm here on Facts Legend.

However, we are also going to demystify the myth surrounding the snake. It is a strong and persistent myth and you deserve to know the truth.

So, let us get started with our facts list. Are you ready? Of course you are!

Belcher’s Sea Snake Classification

Before we give you a rundown of the Belcher’s Sea Snake facts, let us take a quick look at the scientific classification of this reptile.

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Reptilia
Order Squamata
Suborder Serpentes
Family Elapidae
Genus Hydrophis
Species H. belcheri
Binomial Name Hydrophis belcheri

So, from the classification above, we can see that it is a type of Elapid snake. There are other snake species that also fall under this family. We will cover them later.

Did you know?

Hydrophis belcheri is not the only binomial name available for Belcher’s Sea Snake? There are synonyms and if you come across any of those synonyms, just know that people are talking about this particular snake species.

Synonyms of the binomial name:

There are in total 3 other known synonyms of Hydrophis belcheri. They are:

1. Aturia belcheri

2. Distira belcheri

3. Chitulia belcheri

Belcher’s Sea Snake General Facts | 1-10

Okay, now that we have learned about the classification of the snake, it is time that we focus on the facts. Let’s start with the basic facts.

01. Belcher’s Sea Snake is an extremely venomous snake species.

02. It is an elapid sea snake.

Elapids are venomous snakes that are endemic to world’s tropical and sub-tropical regions. Terrestrial forms of elapids can be found in Americas, Africa, Australia and Asia. Marine forms are found in Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean.

03. When it comes to temperament, the snake is very timid. It will not bite unless someone provokes it very severely.

04. Most of the people who have been bitten by this snake are fishermen who handle the fishing nets.

05. Here is something interesting. Only 25% of all those who have been bitten by the Belcher’s Sea Snake actually get envenomed.

06. The reason for such low rate is that the snake rarely uses and injects much of its venom.

belcher's sea snake facts

07. Though the snake is pretty venomous, it is not really considered a big threat to humans due to its docile nature.

08. Belcher’s Sea Snake is also known by the name faint-banded snake.

09. There are many people who actually go on to confuse this snake as hook-nosed sea snake.

10. The hook-nosed sea snake is completely different species that is scientifically known as Enhydrina schistosa.

Physical Description | 11-22

belcher's sea snake has a small mouth

Now that we have already looked into the general Belcher’s Sea Snake facts, it is about time we divert our attention towards its physical appearance. Ready?

11. The adults of this species grow to length of anywhere between 20 inches and 40 inches (0.5 meter to 1 meter).

12. The snake species is known for a thin body with the overall body displaying a chrome yellowish color.

13. Dark greenish crossbands appear all across the body length.

14. The dark greenish crossbands are present only on the dorsal side or the upper side of the body.

15. These patterns do not extend up to the belly or abdomen (known as venter).

16. The head of the snake is short and it also displays the same dark greenish crossbands pattern.

17. When the snake is taken out of water, the body appears to have a faint yellow color.

18. The scales found on the body of the snake are different from most of the other known snakes in terms that the scales actually overlap each other.

19. The ventral scales (that is, the scales found on the abdomen) are very narrow but they are slightly wider than the scales on the dorsal side or the back or upper side of the body.

20. The scales on the dorsal side have a small central tubercle (a small rounded projection).

21. At the posterior end, that is, towards the tail, the body gets laterally compressed. In simple words, the tail is flattened. That is basically the normal adaptation seen in sea snakes.

22. The mouth of the snake is very small. However, this small mouth is actually suitable for aquatic life.

Where Is It Found? | 23-27

So, where can you find the Belcher’s Sea Snake? Is this species found only in a single country or is it found globally? Let’s find out.

23. The snake species can be found in the Indian Ocean. In particular, it can be found in New Guinea and in Visayan area and Panay of Philippines.

24. It can also be found in Solomon Islands and in Gulf of Thailand [Pacific Ocean].

25. In Australia, it can be found in Queensland and North Territory [Indian Ocean].

26. In South Pacific, the snake species can be found in New Caledonia.

27. Back to Indian Ocean, it can also be found in Ashmore Reef located in Timor Sea off Australia’s northwest.

Habitat and Human Role | 28-32

belcher's sea snake facts

Talking of Belcher’s Sea Snake facts, we do need to talk about their habitat and the role humans are playing in destroying their home. Let’s begin…

28. In the tropical areas, the snake prefers and primarily stays near the tropical reefs.

29. The reason why the snake species prefers the shallow areas near the coast is that these areas are teaming with life. They can easily find their prey in those shallow waters.

30. Not just food supply, the coral reefs actually provide another important thing to the Belcher’s Sea Snake and that is shelter from predators.

31. Humans, as always, are responsible for habitat destruction for these snakes. By dumping large amounts of industrial-strength acids and chemicals into the oceans, humans are destroying the coral reefs and hence, the natural habitat of these snakes.

32. Loss of their natural habitat is forcing the snakes to migrate to even shallower waters that are very close to the coastlines, resulting in their increased contact with humans.

What Does the Belcher’s Sea Snake Eat? | 33-36

This list of Belcher’s Sea Snake will remain incomplete if we do not speak about their diet and their natural predators. In this segment however, we will only talk about their prey and not their predators. Read on…

33. The Belcher’s Sea Snake usually lives in the coral reefs which are known for hosting a large variety of life forms. This makes the diet of this snake species a varied on.

34. It usually feeds on local eels, fish eggs, shellfish and small fish.

35. The snake stays in enclosed areas and crevices of the reefs allowing it to ambush its prey quickly.

36. The reason why it doesn’t hunt in the open waters is that fish are generally faster in open water and can quickly escape.

What Are the Natural Predators of Belcher’s Sea Snake? | 37-39

You need to understand that the Belcher’s Sea Snake is yet to be researched thoroughly. However, from whatever studies have been conducted so far, there are a few natural predators of the Belcher’s Sea Snake. Here is the complete list:

37. Sea eagles are known to prey on the Belcher’s Sea Snake, especially the Grey-Headed Fish Eagle and the White-Bellied Sea Eagle.

38. Some sharks have been observed hunting the Belcher’s Sea Snake, especially the Blacktip Reef Shark and the Grey Reef Shark.

39. Large swordfish and eels (greater than or equal to 10 feet) are also known for eating snakes but it is not clear whether they prey on Belcher’s Sea Snake or not.

Belcher’s Sea Snake Facts | 40-44

40. The ‘specific name’ [the second part of a scientific name in zoological nomenclature is known as specific name] of the snake is ‘belcheri.’

41. This name is given after Sir Edward Belcher KCB [Nova Scotian Royal Navy Captain and then admiral], who was the first person to discover the snake in early 1800s.

42. It was John Edward Gray who first described and named the snake species after its discovery.

43. Gray gave the species name as Aturia belcheri in 1849.

44. The part Hydrophis comes from Greek in which hydōr means water and ophis means serpent.

Belcher’s Sea Snake Facts: The Myth| 45-53

This will by far be the most interesting section of this article on Belcher’s Sea Snake facts.

Did you know that in toxicology, there is a concept called Median Lethal Dose which is represented as LD50. This particular concept is used for measuring the lethal dose of any toxin, pathogen or radiation.

LD50 is measured in mg/kg. In other words, it simply measures the number of milligrams of a particular toxin, pathogen or radiation required per kilogram of body weight for that toxin, pathogen or radiation to become lethal.

Now that we have laid down the basic groundwork for this segment, let us get back to the Belcher’s Sea Snake facts list.

belcher's sea snake facts

45. There is a widespread rumor that Belcher’s Sea Snake is THE MOST VENOMOUS snake in this world. It is a very persistent rumor.

46. A test was once conducted on mice and the LD50 for the venom of this snake species was found to be 0.24 mg/kg when it is delivered intramuscularly.

47. The source of the myth can be traced back to a particular book that was published in 1996. The book’s title was “Snakes in Question: The Smithsonian Answer Book.

48. The two people who authored the book were George R. Zug and Carl H. Ernst. They erroneously mentioned in the book that Belcher’s Sea Snake is the world’s most venomous serpent.

49. Later came Bryan Grieg Fry, an Associate Professor and a very well-known venom expert who clarified that the book clubbed all toxicity results together without taking in account the mode of testing.

50. The different modes of testing a venom include intramuscular, subcutaneous, intraperitoneal and intravenous.

51. According to Grieg Fry, the mode used in testing influences that relative number and hence, venom comparison should happen only within a particular mode of testing and not across different testing modes.

52. Studies conducted on human cardiac cell culture and mice show that the Inland Taipan’s venom, drop-by-drop, is the most toxic venom among all snakes from sea and land.

53. Specifically for sea snakes, the most venomous is the Aipysurus duboisii, which is commonly known as Dubois’ Sea Snake.

So no, the Belcher’s Sea Snake is NOT THE MOST VENOMOUS serpent or snake in the world. If you want to know the top 10 venomous snakes in the world based on LD50, go through the table below (based on subcutaneous administration):

Snake Species LD50
Oxyuranus microlepidotus, Inland Taipan 0.025
Pseudonaja textilis, Eastern Brown Snake 0.0365
Aipysurus duboisi, Dubois’ Sea Snake 0.044
Pelamis platurus, Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake 0.067
Acalyptophis peroni, a sea snake species 0.079
Oxyuranus scutellatus, Coastal Taipan 0.106
Bungarus multicinctus, Many-Banded Krait 0.108
Hydrophis melanosoma, Black-Banded Sea Snake 0.111
Enhydrina schistosa, Beaked Sea Snake 0.1125
Boulengeria christyi, Congo Water Cobra 0.12

That concludes our list of 53 Belcher’s Sea Snake facts. If you think we have missed something here, feel free to add to this this through our comments section.

Sources…

Wikipedia

Owlcation

Thai National Parks

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