Am amazing discovery off the coast of Western Australia has scientists excited because two sea snakes from a species thought to be extinct have been spotted alive and healthy, according to eurekalert.org.
Scientists from James Cook University spotted the animals, known as a short nose sea snakes, the first time any had been seen since they disappeared from their only known habitat some fifteen years ago. The last ones were spotted on Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea,.
A Western Australia Parks and Wildlife Officer, Grant Griffin, sent a photograph of the snakes to the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at JCU for identification and the species was confirmed by study lead author Blanche D’Anastasi.
D’Anastasi said the discovery gave us a second chance to save the endangered western Australian species, but to protect them, we will need to monitor their populations and try to understand their biology and the threats the species is facing.
She added they were blown away about the snakes thought to be extinct were just there in plain sight, on Ningaloo Reef, one of Australia’s natural icons and some 1,700 kilometers south of their previously known habitat, and even more exciting was the fact the pair of snakes were courting, which means they are likely part of a population of breeding snakes.
Sea snake populations have been in decline in several marine parks and the local scientists are at a loss to explain why.
Dr. Vimoksalehi Lukoschek from the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies said the sea snake species seems to be vulnerable to prawn trawling, since many of the snakes are studied after being caught in the trawling by-catch, but that is not the reason for the declining populations around the Ashmore Reef, which remains unexplained.
Dr. Luloschek adds we need to identify the key threats to the survival of the snakes so that we can protected this newly discovered population through effective conversation strategies.