If you’re a diver, you’ve probably encountered this one during one of your dives.
And probably you’ve been told that Yes, this is one of the most venomous creatures on the planet, and that one of its nick names is the 8-minute snake, and you’ll be screwed if it bites you.
The story I was told (and which I’ve heard several times in other places as well, and which I’ve told other people in turn), is that this snake doesn’t have a dislocating jaw, so it can only eat prey which fits its mouth. That its short fangs don’t fly out like they do with land snakes and are too short to really penetrate human skin. With an astronomically small chance of it biting you in your earlobe or in the soft, thin skin between your fingers, what you’d have to do when you encounter one is to make fists of your hands and place them over your earlobes.
The only true part of the story I was told is that these sea kraits -that’s what they are called- are very curious animals, and very docile. They won’t attack you out of the blue, unless you annoy them. The rest of the story is a load of BS, I experienced a few days ago.
I was out on a solo dive, saw the tip of its tail behind a coral and went to go and have a look. When I came around the coral I intruded in the ravaging scene you see above. The sea krait was almost two meters long, quite a big one for this species in these waters, and the moray eel it was feasting on was only a bit shorter, but quite a lot thicker.
The image clearly shows that it’s opened its mouth quite a bit further than possible without dislocating it, and the moray eel was indeed quite a bit bigger than what would normally fit in the krait’s mouth.
I did interrupt the dinner, clearly, because the krait hastily took off, leaving the moray eel chewed on, but further uneaten.
I followed it a bit, it was not afraid, and also not aggressive, and got a few really nice pictures still (from REALLY close 😀 ) and then it took off, first to the surface for a breath, then off into the distance.
So there you go.
It’s still the 8-minute snake, it’s still one of the most venomous creatures on the planet, but I wouldn’t stick out my hand next time it comes along 😉