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Any of some 50 species (family Hydrophiidae) of venomous, marine snakes with an oarlike tail and flattened body. Most are found along coasts and in estuaries of Australia and Asia, sometimes basking on the surface in a large group, though the yellow-bellied, or pelagic, sea snake ranges throughout the Pacific. The nostrils, usually on top of the snout, have valvelike closings. The body of several species is much thicker than the head and neck. Most species are 3–4 ft (1–1.2 m) long; Laticauda semifasciata, a Japanese delicacy, may be twice as long. Though generally slow to strike, their venom may be lethal.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on sea snake, visit Britannica.com.