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While both natives and tourists often believe that Bahrain is devoid of snakes, three species inhabit the island, and two live in the surrounding ocean. As both sea snakes and one of the terrestrial species have a venomous bite, it is important to be familiar with the kingdom’s snakes to avoid injury.
Elegant Sand Snakes
Elegant sand snakes (Psammophis schokari) are extremely fast snakes that are capable of slithering up to 10 miles per hour. They use their speed to capture their rodent, lizard and bird prey, as well as to escape from predators. Elegant sand snakes have enlarged, grooved teeth near the back of their upper jaws. When sand snakes bite their prey, mild venom flows down the grooves and into the wound. Though humans should avoid contact with these snakes, their bites are rarely serious.
Hardwicke’s racers (Platyceps [Coluber] ventromaculatus) are also fast-moving. They have a number of common names and scientists have changed their taxonomy several times; old sources often refer to these serpents as rat snakes. They serve an important ecological role, consuming rats, birds and lizards. Hardwicke’s racers are not dangerous to humans, and generally flee when approached.
Arabian Sand Boas
Arabian sand boas (Eryx jayakari) are nocturnal snakes that often escape detection by humans, even those who in close proximity to the snakes. Spending most of their time under loose sand, boas ambush rodents, lizards and birds that venture too close to the hiding constrictors. Sand boas lack venom; instead, they constrict their prey by throwing several strong coils around it.
Annulated Sea Snakes
Annulated sea snakes (Hydrophis cyanocinctus)—also called black-backed or blue sea snakes—inhabit the water surrounding Bahrain. This poorly understood species spends most of its time in shallow water surrounding reefs, sandbars or sea grass—it never voluntarily comes ashore. Female annulated sea snakes grow much longer than the males do. This dimorphism is apparent from birth, as even newborn females are longer than their brothers. One of the longest sea snake species, annulated sea snakes can grow to 8 feet in length. Though they usually flee humans, annulated sea snakes have highly toxic venom.
Yellow Sea Snakes
Yellow sea snakes (Pelamis platurus) usually stay within a few miles of the shore, but mariners sometimes observe them far out at sea. Yellow sea snakes are well adapted to their aquatic lifestyle: their eyes and nostrils are located high on their heads, which allows them to see above the water and breathe easily; their ventral scales are drastically reduced, which produces their flattened body profile; and they have a flattened, paddle-like tail. Though quite efficient in the water, when they inadvertently wash up onto the land, they are essentially helpless as they are unable to crawl effectively. Yellow sea snakes spend their days drifting on areas of calm water, ambushing small fish that swim by. Yellow sea snakes are venomous, but they are reluctant to bite, and no human fatalities have been recorded.
- Animal Diversity Web: Pelamis platura
- CaliforniaHerps.com: Pelamis platurus—Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake
- Arkive: Annulated Sea Snake
- Arkive: Schokari Sand Racer
- UAE Interact: Sand Snake (Psammophis schokari)
- Egyptian Academic Journal of Biological Sciences: Ecological Distribution of Snakes' Fauna of Jazan Region of Saudi Arabia [PDF]
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images