Slippery rescue of a sea snake

By Peter Street June 13, 2014
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Stranded after a storm, this yellow-bellied sea snake, is slowly making a recovery under the watchful eye of carer Peter Street

This week’s reader photo was taken by Peter at his home during the sea snake’s recovery. Here is the back story:

Following a storm, this yellow-bellied sea snake (Pelamis platura) was brought in as a rescue after being stranded on a beach north of Newcastle, NSW. The turbulent colder waters of storms lead to stranding when sea snakes become exhausted and are washed ashore. In the water, they perform long powerful and elegant thrusts of their paddle-like tail and body to power along; their highly vascularised airways maximise how much oxygen they can carry into the depths, permitting extended expeditions beneath the surface before returning to the surface to breathe.

Typically, this species lives their entire lives in the ocean, eating, breeding and shedding their skin. They are accustomed to warmer waters and have an international distribution in tropical waters, which seasonally extend down the east coast. Pelamis platura ranks in as 5th most deadly venom in the LD50 rankings of all snake species and is suggested to be related to red-belly black snakes or marsh snakes, as they both give birth to live young. 

Rescue of a sea snake

With the help of Jason Hodges from Native Animal Trust Fund doing the initial rescue, Hal Cogger, a guru of Australia Reptiles and Frogs (whom recently released the 7th edition of Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, and has extensive field experience with sea snakes) and Josh Haley, a private keeper of fresh and marine aquariums, a salt water tank with accommodation was set up which provided warmer conditions in which to recover with licensed snake rescuer Peter Street.

This photo shows the 3rd shedding of this sea snakes skin in captivity; this species shed their outermost layer of old skin as frequently as once every 2 weeks.

Anyone interested in learning more about these beautiful creatures is encouraged to get in touch with their local reptile society, which generally meet once a month. To locate your nearest society or rescue group, please contact Peter at [email protected]


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