Tuesday, October 20, 2015

El Niño blamed for sea snake found on S. California beach

For the first time in 30 years or so, a poisonous sea snake was found on a Southern California beach, drawn far north of its usual habitat by what experts think are the warming ocean waters caused by El Niño.

Highly venomous yellow-bellied sea snakes, Pelamis platurus, have been spotted recently washing up on the sands of Ventura County, Southern California, by a surfer, local media reported on Monday.

This is the northernmost recorded sighting along the Pacific coast. Experts believe warmer waters due to a climate change and El Niño double-whammy may have caused the snakes to appear farther north, according to the Heal the Bay organization.

The snake usually lives in warm tropical waters. Warmer ocean temperatures could have enticed the creature to swim north in order to find small fish and eels.

There have been occasional sightings of sea snakes in California, including one that washed up on shore in the early 1980's during an El Niño.

Sea snakes are fully aquatic and venomous. The yellow-bellied sea snake has highly poisonous venom and is most closely related to the snake family elapidae, which includes the coral snake and king cobra.

Greg Pauly, herpetology curator at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, told media that as warmer ocean water temperatures continue, there would likely be more sightings of sea snakes in the upcoming weeks and months.

The snake didn't survive. The Heal the Bay organization is warning the public not to handle such snakes. Instead, they said to take photos, note the exact location, and report sightings to iNaturalist and HerpMapper websites.

 Xinhua - china.org.cn

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