On Monday, May 01, 2000 1:42 AM, Bjorn wrote:

> Christian, I may or may not be right about the sea snakes actually
> their jaws to do anything but eat. In fact, it has been suggested to me in
> private mail that NO snakes actually unhinge their jaws, but that many can
> open their mouths 180 degrees. Given that the prey of a sea snake is
> many times larger then the snake's "regular-state" mouth, it stands to
> reason that it has this ability as well. In any event, several texts and
> websites and other info I've come across in the last 6 months suggest that
> the sea snake can, contrary to common belief, bite objects a lot wider
> an earlobe.

Four years ago while walking along one of the beaches north of Cairns, I
found a sea snake that had attempted to swallow a fish (unidentified) much,
much larger than itself.  It's jaws were open well in excess of 120 degrees.
Unfortunately the fish was of a type with a dorsal spine.  The spine had
pierced through the roof of the snake's mouth, locking it in place so that
the snake could neither swallow nor disgorge its intended victim.  Both had
perished on the hot sand.

Again, in November,1997, Julian, Helen and myself spotted (according to my
log book dated 17 th November, '97!), a 2.5-metre long Olive Sea Snake at
"Steve's Bommie" - on the Great Barrier Reef - that had, judging by its
shape, swallowed a victim many times its own girth.  (I believe, at the
time, that I *may* have mentioned that it looked to me as though it had
opened its jaws and gulped down a Volkswagen!) :-)


>For example, it is well-known that some species gather in huge,
> writhing clusters in deep, open water. The clusters resemble floating
> seaweed, but fish seeking sustenance or shelter there soon find themselves
> meal. Ten years ago, I sailed from Singapore to Bangkok on a
> and from the bridge, the Gulf of Thailand appeared at times to be alive
> sea snakes basking on the surface, even far from land!

The pelagic varieties of sea snake are often sighted far from reefs and land
in comparatively deep water.  In the past - whether because they're more
easily sighted when the seas are oily calm or whether its because they
actually prefer to sun themselves in such perfect conditions -  I've
regularly sighted large numbers of them when steaming through the South
China Sea.

On one night-time occasion I was crewing a cutter as we approached the
brilliantly lit boarding ladder of a stationary vessel.  The bow-man
suddenly noticed that a large, flat-tailed sea-snake had surfaced alongside
and was racing us towards the light.  Not - at that time in my life -
understanding the term 'conservation', I picked up an oar and whacked it
over the head.  We boarded the vessel with more than usual care that none of
us slipped into the water!  :-)