Not Many Similarities Between Snakes and Eels
A. No. Snakes are reptiles and eels are fish, but their serpentine bodies make them look a lot alike. Both are vertebrates and both belong to the animal kingdom, but that's where similarities end.
There are, however, such things as sea snakes, which are also known as marine snakes. And some land snakes, such as the cottonmouth and several species of water snakes, are semiaquatic and well adapted to life in fresh water.
Sea snakes are fascinating animals, and eels are interesting, too, but that's another column.
All of the 70 known species of sea snakes are true snakes with lungs. Most can remain submerged for 90 minutes or more, but typically surface several times an hour.
Sea snakes are highly-venomous. They are relatives of cobras and are found in great numbers in the tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Their venom is an extremely potent cocktail of toxins, which they use for subduing prey, and their fangs are small. Fortunately, fatal bites to humans are rare.
Most sea snakes never leave the water. They bear live young in the sea, and only sea kraits (a type of sea snake) venture onto land to lay eggs. Sea snake diets consist primarily of fish, but some, such as the yellow-lipped sea snake, dine exclusively on eels.
You can get a close-up but safe look at these fascinating animals at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher. Its Exotic Aquatics exhibit houses two sea krait species, Erabu (Laticauda semifasciata) and the yellow-lipped or banded sea krait (Laticauda colubrina). The yellow-lipped sea krait is especially beautiful, with its pastel blue coloring and black bands.
In the exhibit, both species glide sensuously among the roots of a mangrove habitat typical of Sri Lanka or New Guinea. Both species can be found in the open sea of the Indian Ocean and tropical Pacific and among coral reefs and mangrove swamps.
Information provided by the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. The state operates three public aquariums; one in Pine Knoll Shores, another at Fort Fisher and a third on Roanoke Island.
The aquariums are administered by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and are designed to inspire appreciation and conservation of North Carolina's aquatic environment.
For more information about the Aquariums, log onto www.ncaquariums.com, or call 800-832-FISH.
Sherry White is an employee of N.C. Aquariums.
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