The snakes have not been spotted in 15 years
(Mirror Daily, United States) – Scientists saw to a bit of a surprise nearing Christmas, as two believed to be extinct snake species make a rare appearance off shore Western Australia. The two sea snakes, the leaf-scaled snake (Aipysurus foliosquama), and the short-nosed sea snake (Aipysurus apraefrontalis) make their presence unexpectedly known.
Researchers at James Cook University have managed to bring a species back to life in the eyes of science. Between 1998 and 2002, the two types of sea snakes have been labeled as ‘critically endangered’, and have not been seen ever since. Since the species have not been spotted in the past 15 years, scientists believed they had sadly gone extinct.
However, that has been recently revealed to not be true. Several leaf-scaled snakes and short-nosed snakes have been spotted off the coast of Western Australia. After disappearing from their known habitats across the Timor Sea, in Ashmore and Hibernia Reefs, they re-emerged somewhere else.
The leaf-scaled sea snakes were captured in Shark Bay, around 1,000 south of Ashmore Reef, where they once thrived. According to lead author of the study, Blanche D’Anastasi, of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, it’s an exciting discovery. Scientists have another chance at protecting these two species, one of which recorded a high population in the 1990s. There’s a chance at returning their numbers back to full bloom.
These species are the true snakes of the seas. They are marine hydrophinnes, as they live, feed, and breed into the warm waters around Australia. The researchers were also excited to discover that the species appeared to be courting. That means that they might be part of a bigger breeding population.
But first, they are required to find precisely where their numbers have started possibly growing again. Then, they will need to monitor their populations, beginning with the initial cause of their decline. By properly understanding why they were near extinct, they can boost their conservation efforts and develop new strategies. It appears old ones had not worked.
For example, Dr. Vimoksalehi Lukoschek believes the main reason for the disappearance of the sea snakes is trawling. The snakes in question were captured through prawn trawl by-catch surveys, which means they are vulnerable. Other potential problems are habitat degradation, decline of the ecosystem health, loss of prey, and warming waters. It may be that they are still threatening their survival.
However, it seems that the species have managed to persevere somehow, outside of human involvement and without our knowledge. It brings it into question of how much would they truly need our help.
Image source: stuff.co.nz