Unless you’re on Snake Island, it’s relatively rare to spot a snake. But there’s been a recent mini-boom in snake discovery. In California, Australia, and South America, rarely or never-before-seen snakes have been slithering into sight.
The yellow-bellied sea snake had not been seen in the waters off of California for 30 years, but in the last two months there have been a few sightings of this very rare and very venomous sea snake. Over the weekend a California beach clean-up team found one in the sand at Huntington Beach:
But yellow-bellied sea snakes are the least of recent rare-snake finds. On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, a pair of critically endangered sea snakes turned up unexpectedly off the coast of Western Australia. The two species, a short nose sea snake and a leaf scaled sea snake, haven’t been seen in 15 years. In the past, they lived in one place–Ashmore Reef. But now they’ve been spotted more than 1,000 miles south of that reef.
Both those snakes were found serendipitously; the short nose sea snake turned up in the by-catch of prawn trawlers. But in South America a team of scientists actually went looking for snakes—fishing snakes in particular.
These snakes are rare, live in the northern Andes, and do not actually fish. The team found a few snakes they thought might be new species; to make sure, they sampled the snakes’ DNA and examined the males’ hemipenes—their dual ”barbed sexual organs,” National Geographic writes. The hemipenes had a unique shape, confirming that the snakes were indeed new species.
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