Banded sea krait (Laticauda colubrina) in Napantao Sanctuary, Philippines. (Photo by: Steve De Neef/VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)


Banded sea krait (Laticauda colubrina) in Napantao Sanctuary, Philippines. (Photo by: Steve De Neef/VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Photo by: VW Pics

VW Pics

Rediscovered in Ocean's Twilight Zone: the Short-Nosed Sea Snake

The short-nosed sea snake was recently rediscovered in the ocean’s twilight zone, 200 feet below the surface. Scientists are furthering their research with genetic testing.

April 30, 2021

In Western Australia, specifically Ashmore Reef, scientists were conducting research when they came across a startling re-discovery. There laid a short-nosed sea snake, a species scientists had presumably categorized as “locally extinct” since 1998. These olive-colored creatures are a member of the Elapidae family, along with cobras, taipans and death adders, meaning they have “short, hollow fixed fangs capable of injecting predominantly neurotoxic venom.”

Luckily, the scientists onsite who spotted the short-nosed sea snake were inside a research vessel with “advanced robotic technologies,” safe from the slithering thought-to-be-extinct reptile. Blanche D’Anastasi, a sea snake expert at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, was contacted immediately for confirmation at this historic sighting.

Short-nosed sea snakes were once considered “abundant” within the Ashmore Reef region. D’Anastasi noted the species decline began back in the 1970s and merely depleted in the early 2010s, leaving marine biologists concerned with this “downward trend.”

Although the species was considered presumably extinct, Kate Sanders, a reptile ecologist at the University of Adelaide, and her team located a few small isolated populations along the coast in 2016, according to Newsweek. However, the short-nosed sea snakes Kate’s team found were “significantly” different from the reef sea snakes residing within Ashmore Reef, such as head size. This theorizes the possibility of an entirely different species of sea snakes.

Interestingly enough, the reef sea snake found in Ashmore Reef was located 220 feet below the surface in the ocean’s twilight zone, the region of the ocean that receives little to no sunlight. This location hypothesizes two theories: the reef sea snakes have been residing this entire time scientists considered “extinction” which allowed them to be undiscoverable, or the coastal sea snakes identified by Kate’s team have expanded their territory, Sanders explains.

"Could they have recolonized from the coast? That's a really important question," Sanders said. "If it's the coastal population that's recolonized, that would suggest we've lost that historical diversity that used to be present on Ashmore."

Scientists are relying upon genetic testing for answers.

Next Up

The World’s Deadliest Bird Used to be a Pet

Scientists found cassowary eggshells in New Guinea showing the lethal bird was being domesticated 18,000 years ago.

Are Whale Sharks Now the World’s Largest Omnivore?

A new study finds that whale sharks are the biggest omnivore, disproving previous research on whale sharks’ diets. Researchers were stunned when analyzing whale shark biopsy samples that contained lots of plant material as well as krill material.

Bat Pups Babble like Babies

Baby greater sac-winged bats show similarities to human babies in the way they string together syllabus before they can learn to “talk.”

Galápagos Giant Tortoises Are Mysteriously Turning Up Dead in Ecuador

Despite the tough protections, there has been a spate of tortoises killed in recent months, and officials fear the animals have been slaughtered for their meat.

Manatee’s Cousins Have Vanished from the Ocean

Dugongs, the peaceful ‘sea cows’ of the ocean have been declared functionally extinct in China. The vegetarian mammal has vanished from the coastlines of Asia and Africa.

The Oldest Complete Fish Fossil was Discovered Thanks to Kung Fu

Back in 2019, three Chinese paleontologists were playfighting during a break from working in the Chongqing Province, China. One was kung-fu kicked into a rocky outcrop, causing rubble to tumble down and exposing an opening in the rock face. Inside, a spectacular fossil lay undisturbed, preserved for millions of years.

New Zealand's Sea Lions Have Returned: Crashing Soccer Games, Golf Courses, and Public Pools

One of the world’s rarest sea lion species was driven into near extinction after being targeted by hunters. Now, New Zealand sea lions are repopulating the coasts– surprising locals in unexpected places.

Tuskless Elephants Evolved to Escape Poachers

Unnatural selection: After being targeted by ivory poachers in Mozambique, elephants are being born without tusks at an increasing rate.

Lemurs Can Sing with Rhythm

Researchers found the first nonhuman animal that can keep a beat.

Supertrees That Suck Up More Carbon Could Be Forest Climate Fix

Forestation and tree growth are perhaps the most powerful tool for reducing levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) in Earth’s atmosphere and tackling climate change. Now genetically modified (GM) ‘supertrees’ that grow faster and rapidly take up CO2 could be used to address the climate crisis.