California beachgoers have found yet another deadly yellow-bellied sea snake, this time on Coronado’s Dog Beach, close to San Diego.
The sighting was reported on Tuesday, January 12 at around 2:30 p.m., and it involved a 20-inch reptile, which died almost immediately after being placed in a bucket by a local lifeguard.
It’s actually the third occasion in the last few months that a pelagic sea snake, also known as a yellow-bellied sea snake, has been spotted on a California beach.
The aquatic species, whose scientific name is “Pelamis platura”, normally inhabits tropical sections of the Pacific and Indian Ocean, thriving in warmer waters.
Nevertheless, it appears it has been venturing father and father north, first reaching Silverstrand Beach, Ventura County in October, and the second time being spotted on Huntington Beach, Orange County in December.
The reptile, which can be easily recognized due to its lightly colored belly and dark upper side, coupled with a wide tail strangely similar to a paddle, is considered to be exceptionally venomous.
As explained by experts at Waikiki Aquarium, affiliated with the University of Hawaii, the sea snake’s bite releases a powerful neurotoxin, which can trigger kidney damage, paralysis, congestive heart failure and acute respiratory failure.
Even so, according to Greg Pauly, herpetologist at the Natural History Museum from Los Angeles, the aquatic species is not considered to be lethal to humans, since its fangs are quite miniature-sized, and the reptile’s mouth is too tiny to deliver a powerful bite.
It’s still not recommended to try to approach such a snake or pick it up; instead, authorities should be contacted, so that they can rescue the stranded creature themselves.
As researchers explain, the presence of yellow-bellied sea snakes along the coast of California, so far from his usual habitat, can be attributed to several contributing factors, causing waters to be unusually warm.
One of these is climate change, triggered mostly by the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and other human activities.
The rise in air and water temperatures has been accelerated by the warm phase of the El Nino Southern Oscillation, which manifests itself through the emergence of an overly heated band of water in the central and east central portion of the Equatorial Pacific.
Occurring in conjunction with these is also “the blob”, another patch of warm water stretching along the North American coast, across 2,000 miles, from Mexico to Alaska and having temperatures around 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal values.
All these transformations have altered the marine ecosystem, causing yellow-bellied sea snakes to be able to forage for prey, reproduce and survive in previously uncharted territories.
Other aquatic species have also been reaching areas where they had never been spotted before.
For instance, in July 2015 a Subantarctic fur seal, whose population is normally spread across the southern Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, was caught by fishermen close to Kenya’s shoreline, around 130 miles farther north than it had ever been reported.
Similarly, a 7-foot Florida manatee reached the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, although this endangered species usually inhabits warmer regions further south.
As researchers point out however, these occurrences are bound to become increasingly more common in the following months and years. Comprehensive research featured in the journal Nature Climate Change in August 2015 revealed that due to climate change the distribution of almost 13,000 aquatic species will be severely affected.
Basically, numerous marine creatures will be migrating north, in search for increasingly elusive prey and more optimal water temperatures. Some of them will thrive in their new environment, while others will be faced with new dangers and predators, eventually reaching the brink of extinction.
Image Source: MaxAnimal