This Tuesday came with a huge surprise for Australian scientists, as two species of snakes previously considered extinct were found off the coast of Australia, the Western coast, to be more specific. The last time these two species were spotted was 17 years ago, in 1998.
The species in question are the leaf-scaled sea snake, E. Aipysurus foliosquama, and the short-nosed sea snake, F. Aipysurus apraefrontalis. The latter species was used to be spotted in its natural habitat in Ashmore Reef, but in 1998, the tropical coral reef region was suddenly devoid of any short-nosed snakes.
The discovery of the F. A. apraefrontalis was made in the seagrass beds of the Ningaloo Reef region, with two snakes actually courting one another near the edge of the surface. This brought great joy to researchers, giving them the information that the sea snakes are actually somewhat thriving almost 1.000 miles from their original natural habitat.
The other species, the leaf-scaled snake, were found in the Shark Bay region, even though they as well were considered to be extinct. A considerable population of these snakes was found near the seabed, making this information even more exciting for those who have been attempting to make said species thrive once again.
The reasons why the snake population numbers have been dwindling over the past decade in the Ashmore Reef are still thoroughly discussed. One of the factors taken into consideration is trawling, a method of fishing that involves dragging a wide fishing net across vast areas of water. This causes the snakes in question to become by-catch, besides severely shortening their food supply.
The area known as Ningaloo Reef is for the first time seen as a natural environment for the short-nosed snake. This tropical reef is a massive habitat for a diverse range of marine species due to its location as well as its varied food supply.
Unfortunately, because researchers do not currently possess sufficient information regarding the causes of the snake’s disappearance, a conclusive method of counteracting their progress towards extinction cannot be currently found. With factors like extensive trawling, a shortage in prey, various disease outbreaks and rising coastal development, an exact countermeasure remains elusive.
The firsts steps towards regaining theses species’ stability have already been made. By completely stopping trawling, as well as declaring various regions as natural reservations, species can return to their natural environment without the threat of extinction.
Taking into account that these two species of sea snakes previously considered extinct were found off the coast of Australia, researchers are currently considering the odds that other extinct species may still thrive in other locations. Because nature always has a way of somewhat counterbalancing our effect on it, even if we can no longer see a species of wildlife, that does not entirely mean it is extinct. This is especially true if the species in question are marine, because of the vast spans of water that our planet holds, making us incapable of completely documenting its entire area.