Sea snakes are the camels of the sea

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

sea snake
Even though the yellow-bellied sea snake spends its life surrounded by water, it’s usually dehydrated.

Camels are notorious for their large humps and ability to trek through dry hot deserts without so much as a sip of water, but according to a new study, they’re not the only animals in the kingdom who can do so. It turns out a species of snake called Hydrophis platurus, or yellow-bellied sea snake, can go almost 7 months without a drink of freshwater!

Yellow-bellied sea snakes can grow to be an intimidating 3.3 feet long and typically live in tropical in regions like Africa, Madagascar, Asia, India, Australia, New Zealand, and even the Gulf of California. The bright, venomous reptiles usually stay within a few miles of a coast and can often be found cruising along ocean currents in search of prey. In fact, they spend so much time in the ocean, researchers once thought they’d somehow adapted to using salty water to quench their thirst, but this new study proves otherwise.

Scientists collected hundreds of yellow-bellied sea snakes at different points of time from December to June and provided the scaly creatures with more freshwater than they could have ever hoped for. After weighing the snakes and offering them a fresh drink, the researchers determined those who had gone longer without drinking were skinnier and more likely to drink than those who had hydrated more recently.

In fact, it turns out the plumper snakes can go about 2 months without a drop of water before they even begin to feel thirsty at all! If they spend most of their time in the ocean though, where do they find salt-free liquid from?

The yellow-bellied sea snakes wait during rainfall to rehydrate. Since freshwater is less dense than salt water, it creates kind of a lens on the ocean surface. The sea snakes then go to these precious pure pockets and quench their thirst. I bet they drink until their yellow bellies bulge, because they can wait up to 7 months before wetting their tongues.

Featured image courtesy of Aloaiza on Wikipedia.