If you’re afraid of snakes, you may want to read another article. Fair warning.
New research has shown that certain species of venomous snakes travel the globe by riding ocean currents.
One such snake is the yellow-bellied sea snake, which can drift on ocean currents for thousands of miles. It’s a small snake, but its venom can kill a human, and it can stay underwater for about 3 and a half hours. Computer simulations show that it can potentially travel distances of 20,000 miles and more over ten years. For reference, that’s a snake that travels from the Philippines to the oceans east of Hawaii.
Even with these incredible abilities, scientists are still baffled as to how the yellow-bellied sea snake can travel from its ancestral home of southeastern Asia to Africa – and even the Americas. Scientists have observed large numbers of the snakes drifting in large groups throughout the ocean, suggesting that they may simply let the water take them where it will.
While drifting reptiles aren’t new to science, but those with such a broad range of travel are.
So if you’re afraid of snakes and you’re not freaked out yet, then allow me to explain what exactly the yellow-bellied sea snake’s venom does to your body (yes, I’m enjoying this a little too much).
First, the venom spreads rapidly throughout the bloodstream, destroying skeletal muscle as it goes along. This destroyed muscle tissue exits your body through urine, a condition known as myoglobinuria. As your muscle tissue is destroyed and (literally) flushed down the toilet, paralysis sets in. And if you don’t have access to anti-venom, and all that doesn’t kill you, rapid kidney failure will.
So the next time you’re relaxing at sea – practicing your backstroke, letting the cool water lap over your face – remember this: the yellow-bellied sea snake is coming for you.