The Truth About The Haunting Belcher's Sea Snake

Snakes — yikes! Either you love 'em or you hate 'em. Either way, they're fascinating. 

But do you know the truth about the haunting Belcher's sea snake? Also known as Hydrophis Belcheri or sometimes erroneously the Hook-Nosed Sea Snake, Belcher's Sea Snakes live in the Indian ocean, primarily in coral reefs along the coast of Australia, Thailand, and the Solomon Islands, among other locales. Named after the 19th-century British explorer Sir John Belcher, Belcher's Sea Snake's habitat is threatened, and they spend most of their lives underwater. 

With small, flat heads and compressed scaly bodies with a flattened tail that's a little like a flipper, Belcher's Sea Snakes move quickly while hunting, ambushing, and striking their prey, typically small fish and fish eggs (via Owlcation). But if all that so far sounds like a snake living its best snake life, it's time to get to what's truly haunting about the Belcher's Sea Snakes. What makes the Belcher's Sea Snake remarkable is its venom.

One bite equals thirty minutes to live

What's frightening about the Belcher's Sea Snake venom is that it's 100 times more venomous than most terrestrial snakes, according to Amazing.Zone

This venom is used both on defense and offense, and it's injected into the snake's victim through fangs in a saliva-like substance. If a human being were to be bitten by a Belcher's Sea Snake, they'd only have about 30 minutes to live, and just a few milligrams of the nasty stuff could kill as many as 100 humans — look out! 

Those unfortunate enough to be bitten by a Belcher's sea snake will likely feel nothing more than a faint prick. But soon muscle pain and weakness set in, followed by tongue swelling, convulsions, and death. That is, of course, unless you can get to the antidote in time — anywhere from between 20 minutes and 8 hours, so you'd better hurry. 

For these reasons, the Belcher's Sea Snake is widely considered among the most venomous snakes on the planet!

But there's little to no risk to humans

But the truth about the Belcher's Sea Snake is that it's not, in fact, the most venomous snake on Earth. That dubious honor goes to the Inland taipan for land snakes and the Dubois' Sea Snake for an aquatic counterpart (via Thai National Parks).

The misconception that Belcher's are the most venomous came from a book published in 1996 by Ernst and Zug called "Snakes in Question: The Smithsonian Answer Book" including research that was later found to be faulty,

What's more, Belcher's Sea Snakes are really quite docile, and rarely attack unless they're provoked. It's also highly unlikely they'd secrete all their venom in a single bite. They sometimes bite without secreting any venom at all! And since they live most of their lives underwater, it's also rare that Belcher's Sea Snake even encounters humans in the first place (via Owlcation).

All that notwithstanding, the truth about the Belcher's Sea Snake is truly fascinating, and even though they pose little risk to humans, it's best to keep your distance should you ever encounter one.