On January 12, a beachgoer found a twenty-inch-long (fifty centimetres) venomous yellow-bellied sea snake at Coronado Dog Beach near San Diego. It is not the first-ever encounter of this sort.
In the past few months, three yellow-bellied sea snakes (Pelamis platura) – which are uncommon in California – have washed up on Southern California Beaches.
Coronado city officials said in a statement that at around 2:30 p.m. local time, the beachgoer, who stumbled upon the venomous seas snake, alerted the lifeguards. They placed the yellow-bellied sea snake in a bucket, but, unfortunately, it died soon afterward (just like the other snakes that washed ashore in California). The snake is now at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
These snakes usually swim in the tropical regions of the Indian and Pacific Ocean, including: Japan, Hawaii, western coast of Central America, and eastern coast of Africa. Their yellow bellies signal that they are venomous animals. So far, no human deaths have been reported due to yellow-bellied sea snakes.
Greg Pauly, assistant curator of herpetology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, said that the small mouth size, venom, and fangs of yellow-bellied sea snakes are better suited for tiny fish or other small prey, which is why they pose little threat to humans. Even so, experts and officials advise people to stay away from these snakes, if they happen to find one.
According to Pauly, six Pelamis platura have been reported so far north of Baja California in Mexico. Two snakes were spotted in 2015 on California beaches: one at Silver Strand Beach in Ventura County (Oct. 16), and the other snake at Bolsa Chica State Beach south of Los Angeles (Dec. 12).
Scientists say that the reason for the recent surge of yellow-bellied sea snakes in the area is pretty clear: warming temperatures cause by El Niño. Karen Martin, a professor of biology at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, said that marine animals are moving north due to the El Niño event.
However, it is still unclear why these venomous sea snakes are washing up on California’s beaches. Martin stated that it may be a sign that the Pelamis platura are not doing so well. Perhaps the stress from the travel and them being so far away from home has taken a toll on them, he added.
The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles said that people should report any yellow-bellied sea snake sightings to the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image Source: cdn.phys.org
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