Species thought to be extinct, found at Ningaloo Marine Park
More rare sea snakes documented at Shark Bay Marine Park for the first time
A photograph taken by a Western Australian wildlife officer on patrol in Ningaloo Marine Park has led to the re-discovery of a sea snake species previously thought to be extinct.
Environment Minister Albert Jacob said the critically endangered short-nosed sea snake was last recorded at Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea, in 1998.
“It’s an exciting discovery because this species has never been found on Ningaloo Reef before,” Mr Jacob said.
“This stunning marine park is a haven for a diverse range of species and we are constantly gaining more information about it.”
The short-nosed sea snake was identified by James Cook University scientists after a Department of Parks and Wildlife officer photographed an entwined pair of sea snakes on Ningaloo Reef.
These snakes were photographed ‘courting’ and this indicates they could be members of a breeding population.
In a separate but equally important discovery, a breeding population of the critically endangered leaf scaled sea snake has been discovered in seagrass habitats in Shark Bay Marine Park.
This markedly increases the known range of this species, which was previously only thought to live in coral reef habitats much further north.
“These discoveries provide vital knowledge about WA’s sea snakes, which are poorly understood,” the Minister said.
“The findings also highlight the important role that that the State’s marine parks and reserves can play in helping conserve populations of marine fauna.”
The discoveries at Ningaloo and Shark Bay by James Cook University’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies have been documented in a recently published scientific paper.