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SCUBA-L  May 2000, Week 3

SCUBA-L May 2000, Week 3

Subject:

Re: Sea Snake bites

From:

Bjorn Vang Jensen <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Scuba diving discussion list <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 18 May 2000 10:25:37 +0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (120 lines)

Thank you for this, Christian, great research and authoritative sources! I
stand corrected in my previous assumption, that sea snakes can bite much
larger areas than an earlobes or a little finger _through dislocating their
jaws_, but it is obvious from the picture of the little girl's foot that at
least some species can bite areas much bigger than earlobes/fingers, however
they do it!

Bjorn
http://www.bjornjensen.com

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Scuba diving discussion list [mailto:[log in to unmask]]On
> Behalf Of Christian Gerzner
> Sent: 18 May, 2000 08:49
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Sea Snake bites
>
>
> Folks,
>
> I've done a bit of research on this. The text appearing below, in light
> of bandwidth, is often shortened. The URL's give the full text.
>
> Case 1:
>
> > Believed to be the first reported case of envenomation by
> Astrotia stokesii in Australia. In October 1979, a two year old
> girl began screaming while playing in the water at a beach 3km
> from Yeppoon, Queensland.
> The photograph illustrates the snake involved and the appearance of the
> child's foot, showing multiple bite marks suggestive of severe
> envenomation.
> <http://www.pharmacology.unimelb.edu.au/pharmwww/avruweb/seasnak.htm>
>
> Case 2:
>
> > Using a custom-built aquarium at the Smithsonian Tropical
> Research Institute, photographer Carl Hansen got this close-up
> view of deadly Yellow Bellied Sea Snakes (Pelamis platurus).
> Captured for study by STRI scientists, they have the most toxic
> venom of any snake. There is no known antivenom for their bite.
> "Fortunately," says Hansen, "these snakes are not aggressive and rarely
> try to bite even if handled. They are highly modified for life in the
> open Pacific Ocean and are unable to crawl on land. They can often be
> seen floating along drift lines on the surface, but spend much of their
> time in deep dives."
> http://photo2.si.edu/different/dif_csnake.html
>
> Case 3:
>
> I couldn't copy the text on this site, some interesting
> observations though.
> http://www.underwater.com.au/seasnakes.html
>
> What follows comes from my friend (Dr of Marine Biology) David
> Wachenfeld of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority:
>
> There are about seventy species of snake that inhabit the sea and/or
> estuaries. To
> the best of my knowledge, about seven of these are known to have
> caused human
> fatalities. Just one of these species is single handedly responsible for
> about 90% of recorded human fatalities from sea snake bite. However,
> this species inhabits
> muddy estuaries and so does not commonly come into contact with people
> in Australia. Interestingly, Australia's foremost sea snake researcher
> contends that there have been no substantiated human fatalities from sea
> snake bite in Australian waters. It is worth noting that, in the species
> that have been studied, in around 70% of bites made in self defense, the
> sea snake with-holds the venom and the bite is merely a physical trauma,
> not a toxic one.
>
> The factors that determine how dangerous a snake is are mostly- fang
> length, aggressiveness, dose of venom delivered and toxicity of venom.
> All four factors vary alot between different species of sea snake. There
> are three species of sea
> snake that feed on fish eggs. These have small fangs and venom of low
> toxicity and can probably be considered as unable to kill a person.
> Pretty much all other
> species should be considered potentially lethal to humans. For divers,
> it's worth noting that most sea snakes have fangs less than 4mm in
> length and therefore are unlikely to be able to penetrate a wet suit of
> reasonable thickness. Olive sea snakes (fangs up to 4.7mm) and Stokes
> sea snakes (fangs up to 6.7mm) can both penetrate wet suits but I'm not
> aware of human fatalities from either species. Also, the species that
> inhabit coral reefs, where most people do most diving are generally not
> aggressive to people (assuming the people don't deliberately
> harass the snakes!).
>
> Snakes are able to dislocate their lower jaw. But, exactly as you say,
> they do this
> to enable them to swallow large prey. Some sea snakes can swallow prey
> twice their own girth. But the dislocation ability of the lower jaw is
> only used to increase
> swallowing capacity not biting capacity. Snakes also have kinetic
> skulls. This means that the bones of the skull are not fused but can
> move relative to each other. This means that, when a snake has prey in
> its mouth, it can hold onto the prey with the teeth on one side, flex
> the skull and move the teeth on the other side forward on the prey. In
> this way, the snake can 'walk' the prey further into its mouth without
> ever actually letting go. Generally speaking of the 'ear-lobe or finger'.
> END QUOTE
>
> As to that last I suggested to him that I had thought that small
> extremities, such as the ear lobe and finger, were more vulnerable to a
> bite than anything larger and that I did not believe that snakes
> generally dislocated their jaws prior to an attack.
>
> As an amusing aside, he also said (partly in defence of a
> somewhat late reply):
>
> > I was lecturing in reef ecology on a ship called the World
> Discoverer. You may have seen it on the news as it hit a reef in
> the Solomons and nearly sank about five
> days after I disembarked. Bloody good timing on my part.
>
> Cheers,
>
> Christian

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