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Sea Snakes vs Land Snakes (Venom, Diet, Biology)

Generally, sea snakes have a flatter body thank land snakes. They have evolved to this body type as it helps them glide better in the sea.

sea vs land snakes

Sea snakes also have what is called a salt gland. This gland expels salt from the salty water they ingest, allowing them to spend a lot of time in salt water safely. Land snakes do not have salt glands, and this is why many of them stay away from saltwater.

Are Sea Snakes More Aggressive than Land Snakes?

Sea snakes are known as being aggressive, but in reality they are not as aggressive as people purport them to be.

Human fatalities are not common. Fishermen usually capture sea snakes by accident, and then they throw the sea snakes back into the sea. Despite what the fishermen do, there are few reported cases of sea snake fatalities.

Sea snakes are gentle creatures. They are what others would call retiring animals, which means they are very shy. They would rather swim away from humans than get into a confrontation.

Although land snakes share similar characteristics to sea snakes, they are more aggressive.

Some land snakes, especially vipers, to hold their ground and attack if provoked. It is why many people get bitten—they never saw the snake close to their feet!

In general, the occurrence of a bite from any snake is rare. Of all the recorded bites, only 3% have been fatal. There was one special case that was widely covered by the media. The guy died of a sea snake bite while working on a prawn trawler.

Are Sea Snakes More Venomous than Land Snakes?

Sea snakes are far more venomous than most land snakes. Some of them are even more venomous than a King Cobra.

For example, the Beaked Sea Snake has venom powerful enough that three drops can kill eight people immediately.

Scientists say that sea snakes went through special evolutionary adaptation. The reason behind this is that the venom must act quickly to kill the prey in the ocean. On land, snakes can wait until the venom does its damage and kills the prey.

What typically happens in the sea is that after a bite, a fish or other marine creatures could escape to the deeper depths of the corals, making it difficult for the snake to get it.

As such, sea snakes needed to evolve and make their venom more potent. If the prey goes away, another predator could snatch it from the snake.

Some sea snakes have more venom power than rattlesnakes. If there is one good thing about it, many sea snakes perform a dry bite. They bite without injecting venom. They only strike to warn an animal or human to stay away.

Related: 12 Least Venomous Snakes in the USA

Dietary Differences Between Sea Snakes and Land Snakes

All snakes are carnivores. Sea snakes and land snakes both eat meat. But different species have different preferences for which animals they will eat.

For example, some land snakes eat nothing but warm-blooded animals. Some, however, could thrive on insects like crickets and grasshoppers. Land snakes have a wide variety of diet, and what they eat mainly depends on their habitat.

Sea snakes are the same. They eat animals in the sea. Below are some examples:

Sea Snake Common DietLand Snake Common Diet
FishRodents
EelsAmphibians
EggsInsects

Some sea snakes are powerful enough to fight and eat a baby octopus. Some also eat crustaceans. The way they hunt is similar to land snakes.

What sea snakes do is to dive deep and look for prey in coral reefs. They also visit mangroves and the ocean floor to hunt for food.

While sea snakes prefer eels, they would eat anything. Studies of sea snakes as early as 1983 reveal that they even eat flatfish. They also eat puffer-like creatures. The scientists know this as they took the snakes in the lab and cut open their bellies.

In captivity, sea snakes have low chances of survival. They would typically stay in the corner of a tank until they die.

FAQ: Can a Sea Snake Live on Land?

Yes, sea snakes can live on land, but they don’t do it for biological and practical reasons. Even if they are sea snakes, they do not have gills. They need to come to the surface to breathe.

However, many of them still live their entire lives in the sea and just surface for air (like a whale). In general, they are afraid of going to land.

For example, the yellow-bellied sea snake is known to live its entire life in the sea. It is a rare occurrence to see one on land. They know that they are vulnerable on land, and they have difficulties crawling on soil because their bodies are not made for it.

Sea snakes need to drink freshwater. They do not drink saltwater even if they have salt glands. One study of the yellow-bellied sea snake proves that they travel to look for freshwater. During a six-month dry season, they found a group of 99 snakes on the shore drinking rainwater.

While sea snakes will not die on land as a fish would, they would have a difficult time living on land because their bodies are not cut out for it. They have paddle-like tails that help them swim in the sea. On land, this body will make it difficult for them to move.

If they ever go on land, they are in unknown territories. They would not know predators and would have difficulties finding prey, let alone hunt and catch them.  

Many snakes are amphibious, which means that they can stay on land if they want. The sea krait, for example, can stay on land for 10 days.

Conclusion

Sea snakes generally have flat bodies to help them glide in the ocean. They are gentle creatures that would rather flee than fight. Land snakes, however, are typically round and are more aggressive than their cousins in the ocean.

Land snakes and sea snakes are venomous. However, sea snakes typically have shorter fangs, so they do not inject a lot of venom. They are still deadly, and one should not pressure them, or they will bite.

Both sea and land snakes are carnivorous. Sea snakes eat fish and other small animals in the sea. However, some have specialized diets.

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