The olive sea snake is a marine snake species that is characteristic to the Indo-Pacific region. Also known as the golden sea snake or olive-brown sea snake, the species is usually mild in temperament albeit venomous, feeding on a diverse diet including fish and mollusks.
The scientific name of the species is Aipysurus laevis. It belongs to the genus Aipysurus of the Elapidae genus, a group that comprises of many sea snake species as well as terrestrial venomous snakes such as adders and cobras.
The shape of the olive sea snake is mostly cylindrical, with a flattened tail shapes as a paddle. The tail is used for swimming as the snake hunts exclusively in water. Colors of the scales usually range from olive to brown or even dark yellow. Some specimens have been found to be whitish in color. These snakes can generally grow to be about 1 meters long, but some individuals have been observed with over 2 meters in length.
The exact toxicity of the snake is not known. The composition of the venom most likely contains both neurotoxins and myotoxins. The former acts by enabling signaling between nerve cells while the latter cause muscle cell destruction and necrosis, paralyzing the prey. This snake is generally aggressive towards its prey, but attacks on larger prey or humans is largely unheard of, a fact which accounts for the lack of information regarding venom toxicity.
The is quite common in the Indo-Pacific coastal regions. This snake mostly prefers coral reefs, and it can be found even in the Great Barrier Reef. It prefers to hide inside coral reefs. A special adaptation of this snake is a cell formation in the flattened tail that is apparently responsible for detecting light. The snake uses these sensors to detect light in order to hide itself better and become invisible to many predators that feed on it, mainly sharks and ospreys.
As opposed to many other sea snakes, the olive sea snake doesn’t have a specialized diet. It can feed on fish, fish eggs, mollusks, crustaceans and other animals. Most likely this helps it conserve energy needed for the production of expensive venom, as eating mollusks or fish eggs would not need spending any venom. The venom is used for larger fish, venom which not only paralyzes the prey, but also contains enzymes which actually start the digestive process before the snake swallows it. After the prey stops moving, the snake will use its flexible jaws to swallow the prey head-first.
Male snakes reach maturity after 3 years while females after 4 to 5 years. Courtship usually involves several males and a few female. The fertilization process takes place inside the female, and after a period of about 9 months, it can give birth to 2 to 5 young, in some rare cases even as many as 11 or 12. The olive sea snake can usually live for about 15 years, with some reports showing it can live even longer.