Despite the fact that a single sighting of Aipysurus apraefrontalis — or, more colloquially, a short-nosed sea snake — had not been made in over 15 years, a seeming miracle occurred earlier when a park ranger in Australia spotted a pair, and thought clearly enough to take a picture for verification which was sent off to scientists for confirmation.
The ranger saw the snakes swimming in the waters of Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef. Luckily, a park ranger snapped a photo of the pair and submitted it to scientists. The discovery was published Monday in the journal Biological Conservation, according to the Washington Post.
This species of sea snake has been on the critically endangered list ever since it disappeared from its only known habitat, the Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea, with its numbers dwindling with a terrifying rapidity, a 90% decrease since the 1990s. It is not the first iconic species to face the serious threat of extinction.
This species of sea snake has been on the critically endangered list ever since it disappeared from its only known habitat, the Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea, with its numbers dwindling with a terrifying rapidity, a 90% decrease since the 1990s.
“This species has gone from being the third most commonly recorded sea snake in the 1990s to no individuals being recorded in intensive surveys since 2000, indicating a decline of at least 90 percent in the past 15 years,” stated the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
But the good fortune did not stop there.
“What is even more exciting,” said Ms. D’Anastasi, a scientist with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Australia, “is that they were courting, suggesting that they are members of a breeding population,” according to EurekAlert.
The original cause of the population decline, however, remains unknown. While sea snakes can be vulnerable to shrimp trawling, a particular mode of fishing, “the disappearance of sea snakes from Ashmore Reef, could not be attributed to trawling and remains unexplained,” said Vimoksalehi Lukoschek, from the Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.