Yellow-bellied Sea Snake

The yellow-bellied sea snake is the only sea snake to reach Africa. It is found on the coast of East Africa and Madagascar. The same species lives throughout the northern Indian Ocean, around Southeast Asia and into the Pacific. The species is at home on the high seas. However, most snakes prefer inshore water, where small fish are plentiful.

The yellow-bellied sea snake has a body adapted for swimming. The tail is flattened into a paddle that is waved from side to side to push the snake through the water. The upper body is black and the lower section is a pale yellow. The snake swims at the surface of the ocean, so these colours make it hard to spot from above or below.

The snakes breathe air at the surface but also extract oxygen from the water through their skin. As a result they can stay underwater for more than three hours. They spend the night resting in deep water, rising to the surface to breathe two or three times at night. During the day, they hunt at the surface, using their venom to kill fish. The snake is a good swimmer but is still at the mercy of currents.

The yellow-bellied sea snake never needs to come on to land and is helpless out of water. Mating takes place at sea, as does the birth of the young.

Distribution: Coast of East Africa and around Madagascar.

Habitat: Sea water.

Food: Fish.

Size: 60 - 110 cm (23.5 - 43.25 in).

Maturity: 2 - 3 years.

Breeding: Young born in water.

Life span: Unknown.

Status: Common.

Gallery of Yellow-bellied Sea Snake