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Two Aussie Sea Snake Species Thought Extinct Rediscovered

December 21, 2015



The short-nose sea snake (Aipysurus apraefrontalis) and the leaf-scaled sea snake (Aipysurus foliosquama), long thought extinct because they haven’t been seen or documented in more than 15 years and 20 years respectively, have recently been seen off the coast of Western Australia

leaf scaled sea snake

Blanche D'Anastasi

Leaf-scaled sea snake.
 

Grant Griffin, an officer with the Western Australia Parks and Wildlife found a pair of short-nose sea snakes near Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia. They were courting in the water and Griffin took photos of the reptiles. The species was confirmed by Australian biologist Blanche D'Anastasi. 

short nose sea snake

Grant Griffin, WA Parks and Wildlife Service

This pair of short-nose sea snake were courting.
 

A fairly large population of the leaf-scaled sea snake was discovered more than 1,000 miles south of the Ashmore reef in Shark Bay. The snakes were in thick seagrass beds when they were spotted. Scientists previously thought that the leaf-scaled sea snake exclusively inhabited tropical coral reefs but were surprised to find them in the seagrass beds. 

"This discovery is really exciting, we get another chance to protect these two endemic Western Australian sea snake species," study author Blanche D'Anastasi, a researcher with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, said in a statement released to the media. 

But in order to succeed in protecting them, we will need to monitor populations as well as undertake research into understanding their biology and the threats they face".

D'Anastasi is unsure why the leaf-scaled sea snake disappeared from Ashmore Reef and hopes to identify the threats to their survival in an effort to come up with a conservation plan for the species which she says is a newly discovered coastal population. 

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