Sea snakes thought to be extinct have been found off Western Australia

The rare short nosed sea snake discovered on Ningaloo reef, Western Australia. Image: Grant Griffin, W.A. Dept. Parks and Wildlife

Two sea snakes, previously thought to be extinct, have been found off Western Australia.

They disappeared from their only known habitat on Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea more than fifteen years ago.

“This discovery is really exciting, we get another chance to protect these two endemic Western Australian sea snake species,” says Blanche D’Anastasi from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University.

The discovery of the endangered short nose sea snake was made when a Western Australia Parks and Wildlife Officer, Grant Griffin, took a photo of a pair of snakes on Ningaloo Reef.

“We were blown away, these potentially extinct snakes were there in plain sight, living on one of Australia’s natural icons, Ningaloo Reef,” says D’Anastasi. “What is even more exciting is that they were courting, suggesting that they are members of a breeding population.”

The researchers also found a population of the rare leaf scaled sea snake in the seagrass beds of Shark Bay, about 1700 kms south of the only known habitat on Ashmore Reef.

“We had thought that this species of sea snake was only found on tropical coral reefs. Finding them in seagrass beds at Shark Bay was a real surprise,” says D’Anastasi.

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