Scientists are trying to find out how venomous sea snakes reached California beaches after three such incidents have occurred recently. The last incident of this kind took place on Tuesday when a beachgoer saw a 50 centimeters long yellow-bellied sea snake on Coronado Dog Beach, close to San Diego.
The person who saw the snake announced the lifeguards at around 2:30 p.m. Then the snake was placed in a bucket and died soon afterwards. It was given to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography for further analysis.
Assistant curator of herpetology Greg Pauly from the Natural Histoy Museum of Los Angeles explained that overall six such snakes were found to the northern side of the tip of Baja California, Mexico. In 2015 two were found on the beaches of California: at Bolsa Chica State Beach (south of Los Angeles) on December 12 and at Silver Strand Beach (Ventura Country) on October 16. Before 2015 the last reported case was in 1972.
Also known as Pelamis platura, the yellow-bellied sea snake, is not at all common in California, but during the past few months three snakes of this type have washed ashore on the beaches of Southern California. These snakes have a bright yellow belly which warns the other animals that they are venomous: when they bite a person or an animal, they inject a toxic substance in their body. The species is usually found in the Indian Oceans and the Pacific, in the tropical parts.
Among humans there were no deaths reported because of the yellow-bellied venomous sea snake. Pauly also explained that these snakes do not pose any dangers for humans. This is due to the fact that the size of their small mouth, their fangs and venom work better for smaller prey like for example tiny fish. Nevertheless people are warned to keep away from yellow-bellied snake in case they encounter any.
Experts seem to believe that the cause of these incidents is relatively clear. El Niño has caused the waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean to be warmer and this can consequently bring about northward tropical species which might seem unexpected. This happens due to altered currents combined with the rising temperatures at the sea level.
It is rather unclear why the snakes have reached the shore. The species does not move well on land so the fact that they washed up on beaches means that the snakes were not feeling well, especially since all of those found so far were rather lethargic. Perhaps they are stressed to be so far away from home and travel north, says professor of biology Karen Martin from Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.
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